Around 1,000 African migrant detainees marched from the Holot Detention Facility towards the Egypt border on Friday to protest their detention in Israel and to ask for the United Nations and the international community to help their cause, organizers said.
The protesters were stopped about 300 meters from the border - a closed military zone - by IDF soldiers. They are currently camped out at the location and are refusing to return to the facility.
Sivan Weizman, spokesperson for the Israel Prison Service, which runs Holot, said that the protestors have until 10pm to return to the facility on their own and if they don't, police could arrest them and move them to the non-open detention facilities. She added that the IPS is not doing anything to the protestors and that the moment they left the facility and refused to return it became a police and immigration authorities issue.
The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations held by detainees at the facility, home to some 2,300 migrants. Already for over a week detainees have refused to sign in or sign out when coming or going from the facility and have held daily protests inside Holot.
"Holot is illegal because it violates our rights to liberty, freedom and also our rights to life which are considered a fundamental human right," organizers of the protest said in a press release issued on Friday.
"Now we decided to leave Holot and go to Israel-Egypt border, no more tolerance to stay in prison, and we call international community to take care of us," the statement continued.
The demands they issued in the statement included improving the medical system at Holot, releasing detainees who have been in prison for 2 years or more, for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to handle their asylum requests, an end to the resettlement of migrants in third countries, and the release of protest organizers arrested in recent weeks.
Habtom, an Eritrean national who arrived in Israel six years ago and was jailed in Holot six months ago said that as of now, they have no intention of returning to "we are now camping out here near the border and we aren't returning. We are waiting for someone from the international [community] to come and help our situation. We aren't coming back until we get answers."