AFRICANGLOBE – Large forces of Israeli police and Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration pounced on African refugees in the Nitzana forest on Sunday evening.
Some 600 African refugees left the Holot concentration camp in the Negev desert on Friday and started walking towards Israel’s border with Sinai. After failing to cross the border, they stayed in the area over the weekend, refusing to return to the hell hole that is Holot.
Police called on the asylum seekers to board buses back to the Holot camp, saying that if they fail to do so, they would be taken to the Saharonim concentration camp, where they will be jailed for up to three months without charge.
After the Africans refused, police and military personnel launched a vicious attack on the group, which led to violent clashes, in which several of the refugees sought to defend themselves by hurling stones at police.
“There are a lot of policemen here. We don’t have food or water and no one is helping us. But we intend to keep fighting for our basic rights and not give up,” Haptom, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, said.
According to an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, if the refugees don’t return to Holot within 48 hours from their departure, the state is authorized to arrest them and transfer them to the Saharonim concentration camp.
After their transfer to Saharonim, dozens of the asylum seekers announced the beginning of a hunger strike though the Israel Prison Service only recognizes a hunger-strike after three meals in a row have been refused by a prisoner.
On Saturday, the refugees met with representatives from the UN Refugee Agency and asked that the international body help them in their plight.
“There’s no difference between Holot and Saharonim,” Haptom said. “We’re in prison anyway, so we’ll stay here.”
“The government hasn’t even reviewed our requests for asylum and held us in jail for years even though we are refugees,” explained Jack, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, who also refuses to return to Holot.
“Israel trampled our rights; we are desperate and therefore intend to return to Sinai and Egypt, even if it would risk our lives. We are ready to die, since we have nothing left,” added Jack.
The Holot facility currently holds some 2,400 people. In the past two weeks protests have been increasing inside the facility, with asylum seekers demanding improved health care and educational facilities. Hundreds of the Holot detainees have violated the detention terms and failed to check in for their mandatory daily attendance. Some of the protest’s leaders were transfered to the Saharonim concentration camp following the incident.
By: Omri Efraim
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