African detainees send back meals to protest detention

Some 300 migrants protest imprisonment at Saharonim facility; Israel Prison Service: Protest not yet considered hunger strike.

June 27, 2013 13:36
1 minute read.
Saharonim Prison

Saharonim Prison 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Around 300 African migrants at the Saharonim detention facility have been sending back meals for the past two days to protest their imprisonment in the facility, the Jerusalem Post has learned.

Sivan Weitzman of the Israel Prison Service said Thursday that the protest is not yet considered a hunger strike, only that the detainees “are sending back their meals”. While she said the protest has only been going on for two days, a source in the Eritrean community in Tel Aviv said that inmates at the facility have said that the protest began on Sunday in blocks three and four of the detention facility.

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The Hotline for Migrant Workers on Thursday called on the IPS to allow the media and outside medical personnel to visit the asylum seekers, saying that they were told by employees at the facility that the protest started with a hunger strike in block 3 on Saturday, and that the next day it spread to block 4 as well. The Hotline said they also heard reports from Amnesty International about the protest breaking out in block 8 as well. According to the Hotline, they have received no phone calls from blocks 3 and 4 since Sunday, and that they were informed by people in touch with detainees that they have been stripped of access to public phones.

There have been a number of such protests over the past year at the facility. In May, over 300 detainees protested for two days, asking to be released from custody and allowed freedom of movement in Israel. During that protest, the detainees refused to return to their cells for two days, until they were forcibly returned by security personnel.

The protest was held against the Prevention of Infiltration Law (1954), which went into effect last summer and allows the state to jail for three years or longer people who enter the country illegally.

In a separate protest at Saharonim in October, 400 to 500 detainees sent back meals for two days, in an action that was started by a group of Eritrean women who were under the impression they were going to be deported to Egypt.

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