TEL AVIV - More than 30,000 African asylum seekers who entered Israel illegally protested in Tel Aviv on Sunday, according to police, in the biggest ever rally by migrants in the Jewish state.
"More than 30,000 demonstrators marched peacefully in Tel Aviv," police spokeswoman Lubra Samri told AFP.
Gathered in the central Rabin Square, the protesters sharply criticised Israel's refusal to give them refugee status and the detention without trial of hundreds of asylum seekers.
"We are all refugees" and "Yes to freedom, no to prison!" they chanted in English, with Israeli rights activists also joining the march.
Ultra-Orthodox MP Eli Yishai, the hardline former interior minister who in 2012 led the government campaign to round up and deport tens of thousands of illegal migrants, denounced Sunday's protest.
Yishai said that the "infiltrators", as authorities call them, were encouraged by "anti-Zionist human rights organisations".
He told the website of the Maariv daily that Tel Aviv, where many of the migrants live "long ago became an African city."
The demonstration, he added, was "a sharp and clear cry for the state of Israel and judicial and law enforcement authorities to apply all the means at their disposal to return the infiltrators to their countries."