Police and immigration enforcement officers rounded up hundreds of African migrants
rallying in Jerusalem on Tuesday, who demanded the state recognize their asylum
claims and stop jailing them in detention centers in the South.
included some of the hundreds of migrants who had left the new Holot open
detention facility over the weekend and refused to return.
Binyamin Netanyahu said of the protesters that “a law is a law, and it certainly
applies to illegal workers.” He added that the migrants who had been moved to
the open facility “can either stay there or return to their
Most of Israel’s 55,000 African migrants are from Eritrea and
Sudan, and could face persecution if they return.
At around 3 p.m. on
Tuesday, a representative of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority
(PIBA) arrived outside the Knesset and told the migrants they had to get on the
bus or be removed by force. Many made their way willingly onto the buses, but
others refused and were forcibly placed on the vehicles by YASSAM officers and
immigration enforcement officials.
Video by Benji Rosen
Authorities had to wait until the
afternoon to do this, due to regulations stipulating that 48 hours must elapse
between the time a detainee leaves a holding center and the time he or she can
The approximately 200 migrants who left the protest made
their way back to the South, where they will now be confined at the Saharonim
closed prison instead of Holot.
On Sunday night, around 150 migrants made
their way to the Beersheba bus station, where they tried to board buses to
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere. On Monday night they received shelter at
Kibbutz Nahshon, north of Beit Shemesh, and in the morning were driven to
Jerusalem by bus, with a police escort.
Altogether, 320 out of the 483
detainees who moved into Holot after it opened on Thursday had not returned to
the facility as of Tuesday morning. They are demanding that the state examine
their asylum requests and stop keeping them in legal limbo.
The men had
all been jailed in the Saharonim prison next to Holot for well over a year. Many
had been told they would be released, only to be moved to the open
The new facility was built to house migrants arrested as Israel
enforces the new amendment to the anti-infiltration law, which allows the state
to hold people who enter the country illegally at the facility. Holot is open
during the day, but is locked at night with a headcount.
who came to Jerusalem on Tuesday was Anwar Suleiman, a native of Darfur who has
lived in Israel for five years.
He said his fellow asylum-seekers were
trying to submit a letter to the state asking for it to recognize them as
refugees and stop jailing them as illegal migrants.
“You can’t put people
in a place and tell them it’s a prison but it’s open,” he said.
said they planned to stay at the protest until they were arrested, adding, “I
can’t go back to my country because they’ll kill me. So how can you say you’ll
jail me until you can return me to there?” Brahani Brahi, an Eritrean who was
transferred to Holot, said the facility wasn’t better than Saharonim and that he
did not want to return.
MK Michal Roisin (Meretz), the head of the
Migrant Workers Committee, said Tuesday at the demonstration that she was there
to protest “a law that prevents asylum-seekers in Israel from attaining their
basic right to dignity.
There are people living here with no future, no
hope and no date of release. This is not a solution for them or for
MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu), also a member of the committee,
took a different stance, saying that the protest march was “the product of
left-wing activist organizations that want to make Israel a country of
He added that by his estimate, 95 percent of the migrants
were illegal infiltrators and only 5% were legitimate asylum-seekers.
crowd of around 300 people marched from the Prime Minister’s Office, past the
Bank of Israel and the Foreign Ministry, to the Supreme Court and the
They held signs reading, “We are refugees. Not
criminals,” and, “We walk for freedom and humanity.” There were also placards
bearing quotes from Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.
Immigration Policy Center, an NGO, placed blame on the human rights
organizations assisting the protest march, saying on Tuesday that “this march
and the petition presented against the amendment before it even went into effect
are examples of the depth of the contempt these organizations have for the
citizens of Israel, its elected officials and the residents of south Tel
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) told the crowd, “I do hope that the Israeli
public will get the message that first of all, they are people here. Not a
threat. Not a danger to Israeli society. But actually people who are fighting
for their own lives and own future.”
Henin said the decision to come to
Jerusalem showed that the migrants were not making a simple escape.
could have come to Beersheba and disappeared all around the country,” he said.
“But they decided to keep together and to protest together in order to deliver a
message... that they are fighting for their status as asylum- seekers, their
status as refugees.”