African migrants protest their detention

Israel Prison Service says some 340 migrants at Saharonim prison protest, say they are being illegally held, call to be released.

Saharonim Prison 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Saharonim Prison 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Over 300 African asylumseekers held a protest at the Saharonim detention center in the Negev over the weekend, demanding they be released from custody and allowed to move freely in the country, the Prisons Service said on Sunday.
The protesters included some 340 migrants from the 7 block of the detention center, the service said, who refused to return to their cells on Friday and remained in yard of the block. The protesters told the wardens that they are being held illegally and must be released. Efforts to speak to the prisoners failed.
On Sunday morning, Prisons Service officers moved in and removed the protesters from the yard. The service said that the protesters used passive resistance and therefore the officers did not use violent force or crowd dispersal means such as flash bangs or tear gas.
The protesters were demonstrating against the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law (1954) that went into effect last summer and allows the state to jail for three years or longer people who enter the country illegally.
Two human rights NGOs in Tel Aviv contacted by The Jerusalem Post on Sunday said they only heard about the protest on Sunday morning.
In a protest at Saharonim against the Infiltrators Law last October, 400 to 500 African migrants sent back their meals for two days. The strike was started by a group of Eritrean women, who reportedly were under the impression they would be returned to Egypt.