Eleven Asylum Seekers at Holot Detention Center Hit by Food Poisoning

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African asylum seekers at Holot detention center in the Negev.
Asylum seekers at the Holot detention center in the Negev. Credit: Eli Hershkovitz

Eleven asylum seekers at the Holot detention center required medical assistance Thursday due to food poisoning thought to be caused by canned tuna bought at the facility’s canteen.

The inmates arrived at the center’s clinic suffering from vomiting and exhaustion; they were released to their rooms after receiving medical care.

Bikur Rofeh, the company that runs the clinic, notified the Health Ministry, the head physician for the region and the facility’s management, while the suspected tuna was sent to a lab for testing.

According to the clinic, the medic on duty and doctor on call got the situation under control.

“The two managed the incident, giving the patients fluid infusions and antiemetic medication. Initial inquiries show that the underlying cause was apparently a can of tuna,” the clinic said in a statement, adding that the rapid treatment greatly improved the patients’ condition.

Asylum seekers at Holot are not permitted to bring in food from outside the facility. They thus depend on meals provided by the prison service and items sold in the canteen.

MK Michal Rosin (Meretz), the head of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, said this wasn’t the first problem with the food at Holot.

“In light of the numerous complaints regarding the food served to inmates at the facility, I urge you to investigate,” she wrote, addressing Avi Segev, the officer in charge of detainees at the facility. “I would also like to know how you intend to prevent such occurrences in the future.”

For its part, the prison service said the 11 asylum seekers had “returned to their routines.”

“We don’t know the cause of the problem and whether it is linked to the food they purchased in the canteen. The expiry dates of cans of tuna in the canteen have been examined and found to be in order,” the prison service said in a statement.

“These inmates can leave the facility during the day, and there is no supervision of what and where they eat, so the problem cannot definitively be attributed to their purchases at the canteen.”

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