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PHOTOS: 24 hours outside Holot 'open' detention center

African asylum seekers converge on the Holot ‘open’ detention center to demand the release of those held there, and call for a comprehensive solution for their community.

Photos and text by: Yotam Ronen, Oren Ziv and Tali Mayer/Activestills.org

African asylum seekers walk into the Holot detention center in Israel's southern Negev desert, on February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers walk into the Holot detention center in Israel’s southern Negev desert, on February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers from different cities in Israel held a two-day protest outside Holot detention center in the Negev, on February 17-18, 2014. Around 500 African immigrants gathered outside the center to call on Israeli authorities for the release of all people imprisoned under the Prevention of Infiltration Law, and find a comprehensive solution for the asylum seeker community.

The detainees of Holot joined the demonstration from inside the detention center. The protest is just the latest action in the mass struggle of asylum seekers in Israel that began in December 2013 with the “March for Freedom.”

New arrivals to Holot detention center, February 17, 2014.

New arrivals to Holot detention center, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the Holot detention center, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers gaze at Israeli military helicopters during a protest outside the Holot detention center, in Israel’s southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

The protesters were calling to close the prison and to recognize the refugee rights of the African asylum seekers living in Israel.

The protesters were calling for the closing of the prison and for the recognition of the refugee rights of African asylum seekers living in Israel.

African asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the Holot detention center, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the Holot detention center, in Israel’s southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot detention center protest behind the prison's fence, as other asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the facility, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers in Holot detention center join the protest from behind the prison’s fence, as other asylum seekers protest outside the facility in Israel’s southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot detention center protest behind the prison's fence, as other asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the facility, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers inside Holot detention center protest behind the prison’s fence as others protest outside.

African asylum seekers sit on the ground after taking part in a protest outside the Holot detention center, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

As darkness falls, African asylum seekers occupy the ground outside Holot detention center.

African asylum seekers gather around a fire after taking part in a protest outside the Holot detention center, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers gather around a fire after taking part in a protest outside the Holot detention center.

African asylum seekers wake up in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel.

African asylum seekers wake up in the early morning for a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center.

African asylum seekers gather around the fire in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel.

African asylum seekers gather around a fire in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center.

African asylum seekers gather around the fire in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel.

African asylum seekers gather around the fire in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel.

African asylum seekers sleep in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel

African asylum seekers sleep in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of asylum seekers are jailed.

African asylum seekers wake up in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel.

African asylum seekers wake up in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center.

African asylum seekers wake up in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center where hundreds of Aylum seekers are jailed, February 18, 2014 in the southern Negev desert of Israel.

African asylum seekers wake up in the early morning of a second day of protest outside the Holot detention center.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. All of this could have been prevented if the State had honored the spirit of the High Court’s Refugee Detention decision.

      Yet the State has shown remarkable and prudent restraint over the series of protests erupting after the opening of Holot. I do not think the powers of the State are of a single mind on how to proceed, especially as the Court is now considering the amended infiltration law and Holot itself.

      I am amazed by the creativity and resolve of these refugees. Perhaps because of all they have gone through, they now are determined to use what freedom they have toward self-liberation. They have shown an acute understanding of controlled protest, with more energy than evident in “home grown” Israeli movements, certainly after the dismantling of J14. If ever there can be a natural assay of what these people have endured, these truly civil actions are that. Their reply to Holot is a great hope for those who believe in civil resistance.

      Israel seems to be showing us something new, for this struggle would be impossible in their home countries.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        They don’t attack police. The police does not defend itself. They don’t get hurt. It is that simple when it comes to demonstrations in Israel.

        Let them protest on their way out of the country. They can self-liberate themselves with a free ticket out of Israel. They are leaving and there is nothing they, nor any of their Israeli collaborators can do about it. They came uninvited and they will be forced to leave one way or another.

        Reply to Comment
        • “They don’t attack police. The police does not defend itself. They don’t get hurt. It is that simple when it comes to demonstrations in Israel.”

          It is more than that: the police do not interdict the protests, as they could have done one two or three occasions. Traveling to a prison might have been on such occasion.

          Consider the second attempted mini-exodus from Holot: immigration began rounding them up as they walked off, with some police also saying “they haven’t broken the amended law yet,” since brief departure from the prison is therein allowed. In this case, immigration violated the law, some police said you can’t do this, but immigration did anyway, with impunity. This I contrast with other State behavior in this ongoing case.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            There is no reason to ‘interdict’ a protest where there is minimal risk of disruption to public order, such as, for example trying to block traffic or destroy property. No one cares if the illegal migrants protest outside of Holot. No one cares if they protest in Rabin Square or outside the Interior Ministry in Tel Aviv. That is, as long as they don’t start to try to disrupt public order. The moment that line is crossed the police will be out in force and will act because that is their job.

            Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >All of this could have been prevented if the State had honoured the spirit of the High Court’s Refugee Detention decision.

        Are you aware of any internationally recognized document which would directly stipulate that asylum seekers must be allowed to work?

        From the international law point of view, a State could build concentration camps and contain the whole asylum seekers population, there until another solution is found or refugee status granted after an alleged asylum seeker proves that he/she has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

        Please note that desertion from military service OR state laws which define as a criminal any citizen who arrives to Israel, are not a sufficienly good reason to provide a political asylum.

        >Yet the State has shown remarkable and prudent restraint over the series of protests erupting after the opening of Holot.

        Which is hardly surprising, because the state of Israel, her citizens and our Palestinian neighbours are resolved to make Israel/Palestine Eritreanfrei ASAP.

        >I am amazed by the creativity and resolve of these refugees.

        Nothing to be amazed at. The whole turmoil is orchestrated by non-Arfican leftists.

        >Perhaps because of all they have gone through, they now are determined to use what freedom they have toward self-liberation.

        Self-liberation? Maybe they should better self-grow some spine and overthrow their government?

        >Their reply to Holot is a great hope for those who believe in civil resistance.

        Asylum seekers have no right for a “civil resistance”.

        >Israel seems to be showing us something new, for this struggle would be impossible in their home countries.

        That’s lovely. Their home countries are too primitive, so they should have a right to exercise their “civil rights” in Israel. Yeah, right.

        Reply to Comment
        • The issue is indefinite detention absent good faith attempts at asylum hearings, as mandated by treaty, not the outcome of those hearings. The problem of legal work arises precisely because the State has refused good faith hearings, and your High Court has said that prolonged detention without some sort of trial is unacceptable.

          So, again, all of this could have been avoided if the Convention had been honored; and recent protests would not have happened/be happening if the High Court decision had been honored.

          There is no need to conflate hearing outcome with refusal to obey the High Court and honor the convention.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            In other words, no, there is no document or convention that stipulates that illegal migrants (or even asylum seekers) be allowed to work. Likewise there is no document or convention that stipulates that illegal migrants be allowed to live in Tel Aviv.

            Your argument is a red herring. Regardless of whether there are hearings or not Israel has no obligation according to any convention to allow these people to either work or to live wherever they want. The only obligation Israel has according to the convention, even to people recognized as refugees (a status to which these people have no claim to), is to not deport them. That’s it. Everything else is infinite layers of misdirection by people interested in challenging Israeli immigration law and national character through the back door.

            Reply to Comment
    2. DerAsylant

      i would like to invite all these people to come to democratic germany, coz zionist entity doesn´t deserve them.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        Keep talking out your arse.

        Reply to Comment
        • DerAsylant

          that´s what i am sayin´.
          As a good non zionist jew and a legal part of german state i want to welcome these poor souls. after all didn´t i learn from nazi past?

          Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Oh, please take the whole bunch. Germany would certainly benefit from such a great people.

        Reply to Comment
        • DerAsylant

          of course it would. since germany is to blame for success of zionism, it should be also held accountable for all refugees from middle east and africa. this is the right of return european ethic giants can actually enforce.

          Reply to Comment
    3. bob wisby

      Conditions in this camp seem good enough, given the type of people it’s housing. Let’s not forget the thousands of Jews who were kept in similar conditions on Cyprus, by the perfidious Albions. That was no picnic either. These things happen.

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        “perfidious Albion”?
        Last time I heard such wordings it came from Joseph Goebbels….

        Reply to Comment
    4. bob frisby

      JG, given that you share initials with Joseph Goebbels, I don’t know whether you approve or disapprove of my phraseology. I am at your service, should you require any further non-sequiturs.

      Reply to Comment
    5. from canada

      I don’t believe these, all this people they came from a country it has been in war for 30 years. They came to run away to get asylum and no human right no compassionate what so ever they didn’t do any crime why are they in prison. Why don’t the government call them refuge other countries can help them. Where is compassionate as a human being they came to Israel it is not because of food because of political sustainability in Eritrea. A shame on you Israel government you should be good example in the world but no human right what so ever, in my point of view the most racist country ever. Canada and united states the are much better than you when it comes human treated as a human doesn’t matter where they from. What goes around it comes around that is all I have to say. Your land suppose to be a holy land but because of UN human thing all your life you have been in war.

      Reply to Comment

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