Israel Summoning Migrants in City Centers to Detention

Law permits police to arrest migrants who don't report to Holot.

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The Immigration and Population Authority announced Sunday that over the coming days it will start summoning African migrants in city centers to a holding facility in southern Israel.

Though the criteria by which the authority is to decide which migrants are summoned first was not officially announced, sources at the authority said those living in Israel longest will be called to move to the detention center first

According to the statement issued by the authority, migrants currently residing in cities, mainly in Tel Aviv and Eilat, will be summoned to the Authority's offices, where they will be told that they are required to report for the Holot detention center within 30 days, implementing Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar's plan to decrease the number of migrants living in city centers.

The authority plans to issue summonses to African migrants when they come to renew their temporary residency permits. Most migrants in Israel from Eritrea and Sudan hold temporary residence permits that they are required to renew once every few months.

Authority officials stated that certain migrants will be issued summonses to report to the detention facility at Holot within 30 days. According to new stipulations in the anti-infiltration law, those who refuse to report to Holot can be arrested. Most migrants make sure to regularly renew their permits, as those caught without valid permits can be jailed.

Human rights groups said there is no real difference between the so-called open detention center and a jail. Several of the groups have filed a petition with the High Court challenging the law that authorizes the Holot center, and allows the state to hold migrants for up to a year without trial.

On Saturday night, an estimated 1,000 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants, along with Israeli human rights activists, marched through the streets of Tel Aviv to urge the government to consider the asylum requests of African migrants and release the approximately 3,000 held in Israeli custody.

Demonstrators marched from Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv, where many migrants live, to Independence Hall located on Rothschild Boulevard, central Tel Aviv. In an unplanned runoff to the protest, the demonstrators kept marching through Tel Aviv and blocked several streets, waving signs that read Liberty and Not another jail.

Police detained two migrants for questioning for allegedly attacking a police officer and disturbing the peace, and used pepper spray in an effort to disperse the rally.

On Tuesday, some 150 African migrants demonstrated in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem after marching to Jerusalem from the detention facility in southern Israel. Police forces and Population and Immigration Authority officers forcefully loaded them onto buses which took them back to Holot.

Holot detention center.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz