Police on Sunday evening forcefully evacuated hundreds of African asylum seekers encamped near the Egyptian border. They had walked out of the Holot detention center on Friday in protest against Israel's policy of detaining them indefinitely.
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Some 100 Border Police arrived at the makeshift camp that theasylum seekers erected in Nitzana Forest. After giving them half an hour to agree to leave, the officers began evacuating them by force, and clashes broke out between the two sides.
"Our aim is to get you on the buses in an orderly fashion, without the use of force and without involving the immigration authority," the police representative told the asylum-seekers, who chanted back, "We don't want to!" and "freedom!"
Earlier in the day, protesters said they feared they would be arrested and brought back to the Holot facility in the western Negev. The Population and Immigration Authority had said it “would act according to its authority granted by law.”
At the tent camp, Malik, from Sudan, said: “Our demonstration here is to show Israel that we are serious, that it is impossible to take away our basic human rights. We cannot continue in prison, we have families, we are people.”
A few protesters had left the site and returned to Holot, seemingly because of the harsh conditions in their tent camp – though dozens of Sudanese and Eritrean nationals arrived in their place from the center of the country, as well as two priests from the Eritrean community.
“The situation here is very difficult,” said Teri from Eritrea. “It is very hot and we don’t have means to live, we trust good people who help us and give us food and water.”
Nuri Musa, a Sudanese national, said the asylum seekers intended to remain on the Egyptian border to draw the attention of the United Nations to their plight.
“We want to reach the border to receive aid from the UN in Egypt,” he said. “We have no intention on staying in Egypt, we want for them to transfer us to a different country with [better] conditions.”
Musa said of the asylum seekers who left Israel “voluntarily” rather than face a future in Holot: “A few of them went to countries in Africa, they are there without documents or decent conditions.”