Hundreds held in Israel’s desert detention facility march to nearby Saharonim Prison after seven asylum seekers were transferred and imprisoned there indefinitely — for refusing to leave the country.
By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org
Hundreds of asylum seekers detained in Holot, Israel’s desert detention facility for African asylum seekers, marched to nearby Saharonim Prison on Thursday after seven asylum seekers were imprisoned there for refusing to be sent an unnamed country in Africa, widely presumed to be Rwanda, as part of a “voluntary” deportation program. The demonstrators chanted “We are refugees not criminals,” “We are human beings,” “Bring back our brothers,” “Stop the deportations,” and “We are not for sale.”
Israel is giving Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers an impossible choice: leave for a third country where they are not guaranteed any legal status, or be imprisoned in Israel — indefinitely.
The march comes a day after 700 asylum seekers detained in Holot began a hunger strike to protest the transfer of the seven asylum seekers, who were moved to Saharonim without being allowed to pack their belongings. Two of them are survivors of torture camps in the Sinai Desert, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. Israeli authorities had previously stated that victims of torture would be exempt from the deportation program.
In the coming weeks, many more of the asylum seekers detained in Holot will be transferred to the Saharonim Prison and imprisoned indefinitely, or until they agree to leave the country.
Asylum seekers protesting outside of the Saharonim Prison, joined by dozens of Israeli activists, attempted to submit a letter to the prison authorities, demanding the authorities release the imprisoned asylum seekers. The prison personnel, however, refused to accept the letter.