Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention center 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
When the state and a migrant in the Saharonim detention facility agree on the
migrant returning to his or her country of origin, the state must videotape the
migrant’s consent, according to a policy shift approved by Attorney- General
Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday.
The decision comes during an ongoing
protest at the facility that has seen around 300 African migrants sending back
meals for the past two days, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Weitzman of the Prisons Service said Thursday that the move by migrants
protesting their detention at the facility is not being considered a hunger
strike, only that the detainees “are sending back their meals.”
Weitzman said that the protest has only been going on for two days, a source in
the Eritrean community in Tel Aviv said that, according to inmates at Saharonim,
the protest began on Sunday in Block 3 and Block 4 of the detention
On Thursday, the Hotline for Migrant Workers called on the
Prisons Service to allow the media and outside medical personnel to visit the
asylum-seekers, saying that it was 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 added that it had also heard
reports from Amnesty International about the protest breaking out in Block 8 as
The hotline said that it has received no phone calls from either
Block 3 or Block 4 since Sunday, and that it was told by people in touch with
detainees that they have been denied access to public phones.
new policy will apply only to migrants from Eritrea and Sudan, countries from
which the vast majority of migrants in Israel come.
These migrants often
claim, unlike those of South Sudan, that they cannot return due to a fear of
The consent must be videotaped as part of a detailed
interview with the migrant, with a translator present, in which the migrant also
needs to write or sign his consent to return to his country of
The videotape and request will be reviewed both by Interior
Ministry officials and judicial officials connected to the detention
In addition, the migrant must be allowed to reverse the decision
to return at any point prior to departure.
The policy was announced in the aftermath of harsh criticism against the state for allegedly violating the
rights of migrants by coercing them into “voluntarily” returning to their
countries of origin, including a still ongoing petition before the High Court of
Justice to strike down the law underlying the policy of detaining and trying to
There have been a number of protests over the past year
at Saharonim. 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 grants the state the ability to imprison for a number of years people
who enter the country illegally.
In a separate protest at the facility in
October, 400-500 detainees sent back meals for two days in an effort that was
started by a group of Eritrean women who were under the impression that they
were going to be deported to Egypt.