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Asylum Seekers in Israel Face Indefinite Detention

Asylum Seekers in Israel Face Indefinite Detention

In the Negev Desert, nearly one thousand Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers marched across the arid expanse towards the Egyptian border. Their aim? To protest the treatment they had received while seeking refuge in Israel.

Residents of the Holot Detention Center, many of these protesters claimed they had been not only been subject to unfair detention, but also an unlimited wait on their refugee claims. They have now petitioned the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) to move themselves to another country where they can be properly processed.

However, despite the intentions of the protesters, the sit-in on the border only lasted two days. Soon Israeli soldiers descended on the masses, violently breaking up the sit-in and sending hundreds of demonstrators to a neighboring detention camp. Many of the refugees arrested have spoken out against the harsh treatment,saying, “We have been taken to Saharonim prison. Some of us have injuries including to the face and limbs. In protest of this violence, and our ongoing imprisonment we have now started a hunger strike.”

Most of the demonstrators in this new detention center will be brought before a committee to explain why they broke the rules. Holot Detention Center is an “open” camp, meaning residents are free to move in and out during the day, however they must be back by night. Because the sit-in went on for two days, these refugees essentially committed an illegal action. While some are reporting that they could face up to 3 months in prison, a new Israeli law governing immigration could see them detained for far longer.

In December 2013, the Israeli Parliament passed a law stating that illegal immigrants can be held for up to a year without trial in Israeli prison. This came on the heels of protests by Israelis over the recent influx of African refugees into their land.

This same law also gave Israel the right to put African refugees into these open facilities, such as Holot, for indefinite periods. From here, refugees can wait to be processed or go back to their own country voluntarily. Meanwhile, during their stay, they are not allowed to work. Although the UN and Human Rights Watch have noted that such a law may break international laws on refugees, the Israeli Parliament stands firmly behind it.

Although many look to Israel as a place of refuge due to its historic significance, it has become very clear that for many Israelis, both in government and in society, African refugees are a problem.

Israel has gone on record stating that these immigrants “Threaten Israel’s Jewish character” and just last year, there were widespread crackdowns with the government deporting around 3,900 Africans back to their repressive regimes.

In many countries like Sudan and Eritrea, dissent or leaving illegally can garner life in prison as well as executions for political activists and prisoners. While this deportation was highly decried by human rights organizations around the globe, many inside of Israel supported the move, claiming that the influx of Africans drove up crime rates.

Protesters noted that conditions within Holot Detention Center are less than ideal, with issues regarding sanitation, scarcity in food and a lack of medical care.

Many activists accuse Israel of trying to force the hand of asylum seekers. Rather than giving them safe haven, they are making the conditions so unlivable that refugees simply give up and go home. So for those coming from repressive regimes and conflict zones, their choices remain dire. Waste away in the Israeli desert, or risk their life returning to their country of origin. A choice, it seems, few in the Israeli Parliament have any sympathy for.

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72 comments

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12:48PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

@Nils: One thing is for sure, if we are to ALWAYS bring up old issues there can NEVER be any change!

@Nils, another thing that is for sure, is if we ALWAYS fail to consider what people have been horribly put through and forced to endure at the hands of others, who still exist and show still threaten others, there can NEVER be any change either. Especially, when the threat of annihilation of those others continues.


Also, thanks Ros for your comments

12:41PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

very sad :(

3:17AM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

One thing is for sure, if we are to ALWAYS bring up old issues there can NEVER be any change!

5:44PM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Thank you Michael for your comment.......history also tells us that the people of the Jewish religion successfully migrated to many countries around the world before both the World wars between them and after them.......they also now (since 1948) had a homeland created for them and many enjoy dual citizenship.......but this is about refugees/asylum seekers........we have this debate daily in Australia refugee/asylum seekers mostly (42million now) amass in refugee camps in countries that don't have an obligation to rehouse them...take them on as citizens, etc..in our Pacific region it is countries like Indonesia,etc..These refugees are waiting to be processed (given protection) from a country that is a signatory to the UN for rehousing refugees...Australia is the only country in this region that does this...we have a humanitarian quota that our Governments have agreed to take....not forced..agreed.......but our Government is using similar if not worse tactics..we a sending refugees to our detention centres in other Pacific countries and leaving them there without processing....all in an effect to "turn back the boats"..the simple solution would be....that our Government/s just admits that they are not as "humane/Christian" as they would like the rest of the world to think.....and end our Agreement with the UN..hence leaving them to take on immigrants of their choice instead...

8:59AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

Look. I’m not defending everything Israel is doing/has done.

But

you have to take history into consideration. Just remember the Holocaust. And if you do some research you’ll find that things weren’t rosy for Jews around the world EVEN PRIOR TO the Holocaust.

C’mon people do some research.

Secondly, none of us has any idea what it is like living in a country surrounded by several other countries that want you wiped out and who have tried militarily within the last 40-50 years to wipe you off the face of the earth.

It’s not like Israel is a quiet suburb somewhere surrounded by other peaceful middle class neighborhoods.

It creates a mind set geared to survival on a level we have nothing to compare it to.

3:56AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

I wonder why Israel never get it right???

3:14AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

very sad :(:(

11:26PM PDT on Jul 10, 2014

So sad ...

5:58PM PDT on Jul 10, 2014

Thanks

4:12AM PDT on Jul 10, 2014

very sad

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