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Police arrest asylum seekers who left 'open prison,' marched to J'lem

More than 150 African asylum seekers who deserted from an ‘open prison’ facility reach Jerusalem and are joined by supporters in a first-of-its-kind protest. Police and immigration authorities arrest them all and put them on buses back to prison.

Asylum seekers reach the Knesset (Activestills)

Asylum seekers reach the Knesset (Activestills)

Update (4:15 p.m.): Police and immigration authorities detained all of the Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who left the ‘Holot’ open prison on Sunday and marched to Jerusalem. The detainees were put on buses and driven away.


After deserting from a so called ‘open prison‘ facility in large numbers, refusing meals for two days and marching almost non-stop for another two, a group of 150 Sudanese asylum seekers reached the Prime Minister’s Office and then the Knesset in snowy Jerusalem Tuesday morning.

The asylum seekers spent the night at Kibbutz Nahshon, having been taken in by kibbutz members and in the morning proceeded by buses to Jerusalem, accompanied by dozens of Israeli activists and a large number of police and immigration inspectors.

Read +972′s full coverage of refugees in Israel

Upon reaching Jerusalem they were joined by several dozen other Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who also left the facility for to Be’er Sheva earlier in the week and took buses directly to Jerusalem. An unknown number of other detainees from the new “open facility” are reportedly roaming the Negev individually, not taking part in the “March for Freedom” protest but looking for ways to survive outside prison. Haaretz reports that some have reached Tel Aviv and have been arrested by authorities.

Asylum seekers reach Jerusalem after deserting from an ‘open prison’ facility in the Negev and marching to demand their freedom, December 17, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

The demonstrators were also joined by Israeli activists from NGOs supporting refugee rights, a public housing collective in Jerusalem and residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Araqib. Together they have been calling for an end to the policy of jailing asylum seekers and denying them work permits, demanding freedom and human rights.

Demonstrators were also calling on the government to investment funds not in policing and detention facilities, but in a proper refugee status determination process and in supporting both the asylum seekers themselves and the Israeli poor neighborhoods in which they live. Residents of those communities have for several years been complaining about the hardships caused by the newcomers in their already impoverished communities.

Demonstrating nearby the PM residence in Jerusalem (Activestills)

Demonstrating nearby the PM residence in Jerusalem (Activestills)

Police and immigration forces have threatened that they will begin arresting demonstrators as of 12 noon. According to the new amendment to the”Anti-Infiltration Law,” passed only last week and already challenged by an NGO appeal to the High Court of Justice, asylum seekers who do not report back to the “open facility” after 48 hours an be apprehended and imprisoned for three months.

Repeat offenders can be imprisoned for up to one year. Some of the the asylum seekers who left the facility have been telling journalists that they have already spent two years in prison (under the previous version of the law that was overturned by the court), saying they will not go back willingly. They say they are determined to continue with their civil disobedience until their rights are recognized.

So far (1:30 p.m.) arrests have not been made, and the March of Freedom has moved on from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Knesset. Demonstrators estimate the protest will continue for several more hours.

UPDATE (3:15 p.m.): Immigration authorities have reportedly ordered asylum seekers to board busses back that will take them to prison. Those refusing are being taken by police and immigration officers.

In act of civil disobedience, 150 Sudanese refugees walk out of Israeli ‘open prison’

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    1. Kolumn9

      I am impressed by how quickly they managed to learn sufficient Hebrew to create all those signs. Or did they have some help staging this thing? Actually the fact that they managed to find and reach the PM’s residence raises the same question. Indeed I wonder how much overlap there was between the people that staged this ‘protest’ and those that staged the anti-Prawer protests.

      Reply to Comment
      • John Mackey

        Of Course There Were Those Who Helped; The refugees are oppressed and surely there’s a few over there who cheer on the underdog. You want Peace & Prosperity: Ask Pope Francis to relocate to Palestinian East Jerusalem. The Swiss Guard will provide Security to the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
      • Darkies of all kinds do what they are told.

        Yes, they were given signs–and a megaphone. By kooky leftist infiltrators. Otherwise all would do what they are told. Leftists have infiltrated them, probably got to the open camp in the desert and told them to march out. Or maybe they marched out, with surprised leftists responding by making signs…nah. Can’t be.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Actually that is exactly what happened. They were told what they should do to achieve maximum attention by extreme leftist organizations, who then provided them with signs, bullhorns, lodging and transportation on the way to Jerusalem.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haggai reports a two day hunger strike by some before their, um, exodus. The exodus was unlikely to be a leftist plot, unless they were allowed to drive into the open prison. Once on the road, of course leftists are going to do what they can in support. But you, as with the Bedouin, color the target class as if on its own is unthinking and docile. Very conservative, and very sad.

            Reply to Comment
      • sh

        Some of them had been here for five years before being jailed, K9. You seem unable to credit them with basic intelligence, or the Israelis who demonstrated with them with a memory and a conscience of any sort. There are an awful lot of us still left in this world who were only born because a country took our parents in when they were fleeing for their lives.

        I would be insulted if any country caved in and recognized this as a Jewish country. It is a violent, heartless, immoral one.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          The people that were in Saharonim that were moved to Holot were in the country less than a year.

          I grant the Israelis who demonstrated with them the credit for managing to get some minor amount of media attention. They tend to be good at doing that. Other that I credit them mostly with despising the country sufficiently that they are willing to take money from foreign governments in order to consistently create negative propaganda against their own country.

          That you were born due to the kindness of strangers takes nothing away from the fact that there were many that were not born at all. There are those with memory and a conscience that remember that there were few countries that took us in, which led way too many of us to not be born at all, and that are not about to leave future generations of Jews in the same position.

          I couldn’t care less about your judgements about our morality and prefer to be hated than pitied or dead. Nor do I see why I should care how other countries ‘recognize’ this country. The obsession with how others see us is something that belongs to people too afraid to breath lest they offend someone.

          Reply to Comment
      • John Mackey

        These refugees feel oppressed; many Israelis sympathize with them and print out signs in English. Here’s a chance for Israel to generate some good public relations.

        Reply to Comment
    2. John Mackey

      Your censorship is appalling…

      Reply to Comment
    3. The Trespasser

      Draft dodgers and economic migrants are not refugees.

      Reply to Comment