MEVASERET ZION, Israel, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Ethiopian immigrants protested in Israel over a rent increase at a government housing center and over their inability to afford other housing, officials said.
In order to make room for incoming immigrants, the Jewish Agency -- which oversees immigration in Israel -- tripled the rent at the center, set up to absorb immigrants into Israel. The rent increase affected those at the Mevaseret Zion center who have lived there for more than four years, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Residents held an all-day protest Sunday outside the administration offices at the center, the newspaper said.
"No one wants to be here, but we can't leave without a solution," said Sifinew Reta, an organizer of the demonstration who has lived at the center for eight years.
Reta, a mechanical engineer making $873 a month, and said he can't afford the new rent of $374 per month. His rent before the hike was $124.
Avraham Neguise, director of the South Wing to Zion organization and an Ethiopian Jewish advocate, said those who remain in the center don't have independence and confidence to move out into Israeli society.
He said the immigrants need about two years to get adjusted.
"When the immigrants stay in the absorption center for more than two years, it's not healthy. They need to be involved in the community," he said.
Reta and other demonstrators said the immigrants need homes and although the government offers interest-free loans for them to buy houses, they often have trouble holding jobs and worry about becoming homeless.
"We're ready to leave, but to where?" asked Reta. "We don't want to be a drain. We want to be a part of the state. We came to the state to build it, not to stand in the street and say 'rescue me.'"