MKs visit detention facility for African migrants

Authorities say most of the 1,400 detainees have submitted asylum requests - 17 received denials, the rest awaiting answers.

June 16, 2013 20:01
2 minute read.
Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention facility

Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention center 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

The Israeli government’s incompetence in the treatment of African asylum-seekers is criminal negligence, the head of the Knesset committee on the foreign workers issue said Sunday.

“The incompetence of government policy towards refugees is criminally negligent,” MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said in a Facebook post after returning from a tour the committee paid to the Saharonim detention facility in the south, adding that “we didn’t invite the Sudanese and the Eritreans to come here but they are our guests.”

Rozin wrote that at Saharonim, home to around 1,500 migrants, there are “entire families, with children who grow up there and know nothing other than prison, and are able to get together with their families only once a week when their father is allowed to visit from the men’s section of the facility.”

“Prison is a serious punishment, especially when their only sin was entering Israel, and when their asylum request hasn’t been checked yet,” Rozin said, and criticized the Israel Prison Service for not allowing members of the press to enter the facility to take part in the tour with the MKs.

During the visit MKs met with representatives of the IPS and the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority. MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said Israel is a state of law and order, and called on the Attorney General to approve the “willful return” programs for African migrants, including those at detention facilities, locked up under the “antiinfiltration law”.

“Infiltrators who returned to their home countries told PIBA authorities by phone that they are satisfied with their return home.”

A representative of PIBA, Inbal Mashash, told the MKs that most of the 1,400 prisoners at the facility have submitted asylum requests, and that so far 17 have had their requests rejected, while the rest are still waiting for an answer.

She also told them that around 1,000 of the residents of the facility are from Eritrea and the rest from Sudan.

The parliamentarians also met the commander of the facility, Col. Albert Abuhatzeira, who told them the premises can hold up to 3,000 people, and are now only at half capacity. He also told them that the IPS is providing the detained children with classes, games and extracurricular activities.

There is also access to dentists, family doctors and social workers at the facility.

There are currently an estimated 60,000 African migrants in Israel.

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