Saharonim Prison 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A few hundred African migrants sent back meals for two days last week to protest
against the “Infiltrators Law,” the Prisons Service said.
January, the so-called “Infiltrators Law,” an amendment to the Prevention of
Infiltration Law (1954), went into effect in June and allows the state to jail
without trial for up to three years people who have entered the country
Sivan Weitzman, spokeswoman for the Prisons Service, said that
between 400 and 500 migrants held at Saharonim Prison near the Egyptian border
refused their meals for two days. The Prisons Service only considers a protest a
hunger strike once an inmate has refused more than six meals, she
African migrants in south Tel Aviv said this week that the protest
began on Monday last week when a group of a few dozen Eritrean women recruited
the rest of the more than 1,000 Eritrean detainees in Saharonim to go on strike,
after they found out that they stood to be jailed for three years.
of those who went on strike were also reportedly under the impression that they
might be returned to Egypt.
Activists said, however, the strike continued
until Sunday, and not just for two days, and that four of the hunger strikers
were taken to Soroka University Hospital in Beersheba for treatment and that
prison staff gave others infusions. Weitzman denied the report, saying that none
of the protesters needed to be hospitalized and only a few were given medical
treatment at the prison.
She added that “there are always people being
hospitalized [from Saharonim] at Soroka for different reasons, like malaria,
The hunger strike took place at the same time that
Interior Minister Eli Yishai paid a highly publicized visit to Saharonim to
observe the nearby detention facilities being built to house thousands of
African refugees, which are set to be completed in the coming months. Yishai
arrived at the main gate of Saharonim, gave a short press conference and then
was taken inside Saharonim for a visit, before leaving minutes later.
press was allowed inside the prison to accompany Yishai.
Yishai announced that he would start arresting citizens from Sudan in Israel
illegally on October 15, followed by Eritreans shortly thereafter. Following a
petition issued by human rights organizations earlier this month, Jerusalem
District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or issued a preliminary injunction last Thursday
banning such arrests. Another hearing on the issue is scheduled for October
Sara Robinson of Amnesty International Israel’s refugees branch
issued a statement on Monday calling on the government to “immediately release
without condition the jailed asylum-seekers and to abandon plans to build more
detention centers for them.”
She also called on the state to honor the
asylum-seekers’ basic rights and said the amendment to the Prevention of
Infiltration Law violated Israel’s obligations under international
In an internal Welfare and Social Services Ministry document sent
recently to the National Planning and Construction Council, the ministry said
that the conditions in the tent city being built and the permanent detention
centers for asylum-seekers in the Negev were “unreasonable” and not humane
reported on Monday.