"When I first came to Israel seven years ago, I was welcomed"
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?
“I tried to renew my visa, but they kept telling me to come back the next day, and so on”
I was arrested in the street on December 24. My visa was expired, so they sent me to prison. But I had been trying to renew my visa for weeks, since before it expired.I had never had any problems doing this before. But suddenly it became very complicated. The people working at the visa offices kept telling me there were too many people waiting for appointments, and to come back the next day. On many days the offices were closed. I even tried going to another city, but I had the same problem. They kept telling me to come back later.On December 24, the police took me to Givon prison. They keep asking me if I will sign papers to agree to go back to Eritrea. But I can’t go back there. So I don’t know how long they will keep me here.I have a wife and a 2-year-old daughter back in Tel Aviv. I worked in a kitchen at a restaurant; my wife took care of my daughter. I paid for the house and for my wife and daughter’s needs. I don’t know what will happen to them.