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January 08, 2014 AT 8:50 AM
More than 10,000 African migrants demonstrated outside Israel's parliament on Wednesday, extending protests into a fourth consecutive day in a quest for recognition as refugees and freedom to work legally without fear of incarceration. Their presence in a Jewish state that took in survivors of the Nazi Holocaust of World War II has stoked an emotional political debate over whether they should be allowed to stay as a humane gesture. "I want to say to them that they should not fear us, we are human beings too," a tall, slim 25-year-old man from Eritrea, who gave his name only as Mulugieta, told Reuters. Some 60,000 migrants, largely from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered Israel without authorization across a once-porous border with Egypt since 2006. Many hope for asylum and say they cannot return home without risking their lives.