For African Migrants in Israel, a Life of Misery in Promised Land


Sitting on a ledge in front of Ayelew Desale’s grocery store behind Tel Aviv’s central bus station, Selemon Tesfy inhaled the last bits of his cigarette and recalled his flight from Eritrea to avoid a lifetime of servitude. He was kidnapped in Sudan, sold to Sinai Bedouins and freed only after his family gathered its savings, borrowed money, went begging and paid $30,000 to secure his release.

Tesfy reached Israel in 2011 and repaid his debt, but last year Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a law that slashed his take-home pay. Now employers who hire illegal migrants like Tesfy must deposit 20 percent of their pay in a fund where it will stay until they leave the country, providing they leave when ordered to go. Tesfy, who cleans knives in the meat section of a…

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