Detainees protesting at Holot detention centre on Tuesday night.
Photos and videos taken at the Holot detention centre, in the middle of Israel’s Negev desert, show hundreds of African migrants protesting in the yard on Tuesday night. They were angered that nine new arrivals were forced to sleep outside due to overcrowding, they said.
Holot is what the Israeli authorities call an open detention centre. Detainees are locked up at night, and must check in several times during the day. Most of the detainees are from Sudan and Eritrea, and entered Israel illegally over the past decade, hoping to obtain refugee status. Many of them spent years living in Tel Aviv thanks to temporary residence permits, which allowed them to stay in Israel but not work, though in practice they found small jobs.
However, this past year, the government has changed its attitude. African migrants are now being called up, one by one, and asked to make a choice: get on a flight to their home country, or go to Holot. Fearing war or persecution back home, many are choosing the latter. Last week, a Prison Service representative told parliament
that 2,352 asylum-seekers were being housed at Holot, and that there were only 21 vacancies remaining.
On Monday, 29 new people were transferred to Holot. According to the Prison Service, 20 of these men were immediately assigned rooms. They said guards found rooms for the remaining nine by nightfall, but that they refused, insisting on staying together. However, Holot detainees disagree with this version of events.
New arrivals sleeping outside on Monday night. Photo by Anuwar Suliman.
The men lugging their luggage around the Holot compounds on Tuesday. Photo by Anuwar Suliman.