Saharonim Prison 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Protests continued at the Saharonim detention facility for African migrants on
Sunday, with around 170 prisoners electing to send back their meals in the
There are 230 protesters in Block 8 of the facility who joined
a few dozen from Block 3 and Block 4, who remain on hunger strike since the
protest began early last week. That number is out of the 350 who were protesting
in those blocks at the start of the weekend.
Prisons Service spokeswoman
Sivan Weitzman said Sunday that over the weekend, authorities had removed the
hunger strikers from Block 3 and Block 4 of the facility, which houses some
1,600 detainees, and moved them elsewhere in Saharonim and to other detention
facilities and prisons in southern Israel.
She added that the service
also made the decision to remove all of the detainees from the tent city section
and place them in cell blocks, but said the decision had nothing to do with the
protest. The Prisons Service does not plan to return the detainees to the tent
section, she said.
Weitzman confirmed that during the strike the service
has stopped allowing detainees to make phone calls, saying that hunger strikes
are a violation of prison conduct and that once a prisoner carries out such
actions, authorities have the right to take away their privileges.
protest is one of several held over the past year against the Prevention of
Infiltration Law (1954), which went into effect last summer and grants the state
the ability to indefinitely jail people entering the country
Last Thursday, the Hotline for Migrant Workers called on the
Prisons Service to allow media and outside medical personnel to visit the
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Also on Thursday, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein
ruled that 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.
Weinstein’s 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 persecution.
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 origin.
The videotape and request
will be reviewed both by Interior Ministry officials and judicial officials
connected to the detention center.
In addition, the migrant must be
allowed to reverse the decision to return at any point prior to
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 deport migrants.Yonah
Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
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