Waves of protest

Waves of protest

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Thousands of African immigrants have joined protests in Israel after the country passed a law allowing the indefinite detention of migrants without valid visas.

Some 60,000 migrants, largely from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered Israel without authorisation since 2006 through the border with Egypt. Many hope for asylum and say they cannot return home without risking their lives. Israel says most are illegal job-seekers.

. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Nir Elias

Crowds of 10,000 or more have protested against the new law, condemned by critics as a violation of human rights.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he views the presence of many of the Africans as a threat to Israel's Jewish social fabric.

"Demonstrations won't help them," Netanyahu told lawmakers of his right-wing Likud party. "These aren't refugees, who we treat according to international norms. These are illegal infiltrators seeking work."

. KTZIOT, Israel. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Under measures approved by parliament in December, migrants who do not have the right paperwork can be incarcerated indefinitely in new desert facilities, unless they voluntarily leave Israel.

Detainees can come and go from the detention centre, but must report back three times a day, including at nightfall, and may be held without a time limit pending repatriation or resolution of their asylum requests.

The group of migrants pictured above chose to permanently leave the facility.

. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Angesom Solomon is a 28-year-old migrant, who had to dodge bullets and tear his way through barbed-wire fencing to get into Israel across the border with Egypt, after a two-month trek from his native Eritrea.

He managed to gain a work permit, which allows him to earn 6,000 shekels ($1,500) a month as a school custodian. However, it is due to expire next month and may not be renewed - a situation Solomon fears would expose him to police round-ups as an illegal worker.

A teacher at the school where Solomon is employed arranged for him to be included in first-grade Hebrew classes. Solomon attends, hoping language skills will open up new opportunities.

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Slideshow

Solomon writes in a workbook for his first-grade Hebrew lesson at Kehila Democratic school in Tel Aviv.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Solomon writes in a workbook for his first-grade Hebrew lesson at Kehila Democratic school in Tel Aviv.

He smiles with his classmates during the Hebrew course.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

He smiles with his classmates during the Hebrew course.

Solomon leaves the classroom after his lesson.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Solomon leaves the classroom after his lesson.

He cleans the classroom as part of his job as a school custodian.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

He cleans the classroom as part of his job as a school custodian.

Solomon chats with a boy while cleaning.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Solomon chats with a boy while cleaning.

He mounts his bicycle to leave the school.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

He mounts his bicycle to leave the school.

Solomon sits with his wife and son in the living room of their Tel Aviv home.
. TEL AVIV, Israel. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Solomon sits with his wife and son in the living room of their Tel Aviv home.