A few days ago I was stopped by the police in the street. I had a visa that was valid until February, but I had left it at home, and they took me straight to the immigration office. There, they gave me a new visa, but this one was only for one month. They also gave me a summons to go to Holot by January 26. I told them I have a wife and two babies – one is two years old, the other 8 months – but they didn’t care. [Editor’s Note: On December 29, the Interior Ministry stated
that “at this point, infiltrators (a term used by the authorities to describe migrants who entered the country illegally) who have families (in Israel) are not summoned to the open center.” This appears to have changed
, since several other fathers say they have been summoned.]
As part of the first wave of Eritrean immigrants to Israel seven years ago, I was one of the lucky 2,000 migrants to get a work permit; after that, they stopped giving them out. I have been working this whole time, most recently in a kitchen at a café. When I fled my country due to political persecution, I was welcomed here; as a refugee, I never imagined the Israeli authorities would one day want to lock me up.
I can’t go back to Eritrea, so I have no choice but to go to Holot. Many of my friends are in the same situation. My wife has a visa, and rumour has it they won’t be stopping women. But what will happen to her and the kids without me?