Asylum Seekers Jailed in Holot to Be Given Heaters, State Promises Court

Following petition by three human rights organizations and complaints over bitter cold conditions in detention center, state says will install heater in every cell.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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African asylum seekers at the Holot detention facility in the Negev.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Heaters will be installed in every room of the open detention facility for migrants in Holot within a week, the state promised the High Court of Justice Thursday night.

The announcement came in response to a petition to the court filed by three human rights organizations. The petition demanded that all the approximately 2,300 Sudanese and Eritrean nationals held at Holot be given heaters.

Last week, when temperatures dropped to around zero degrees Celsius, numerous asylum seekers at Holot complained of the bitter cold in their unheated rooms. But the Israel Prison Service forbade them to bring in space heaters, claiming they would constitute a safety hazard.

On Monday, under orders from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the state informed the court that any asylum seeker who so wished would be allowed to leave Holot for 72 hours while the Prison Service sought a solution to the heating problem. But many asylum seekers told Haaretz that the permits they received were for 24 or 48 hours only.

In its response to the court Thursday night, the state said that according to data from the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, only 124 asylum seekers had requested permits to leave Holot over the last three days. It added that until the heaters – technically air conditioners that double as heaters – are installed, asylum seekers who so wish can continue to obtain permission to skip the mandatory daily headcounts at Holot.

“We welcome the installation of the air conditioners,” said Mutasim Ali, one of the leaders of the asylum seekers, who has been at Holot for the last eight months. “But it’s regrettable that it was necessary to go all the way to the High Court to get them to see to an issue as basic as heating. It’s important to remember that the air conditioners will help us deal with the cold at Holot, but they don’t solve the problem: Human beings shouldn’t be here. Holot must be closed.”

The groups that filed the petition were the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, and Physicians for Human Rights.

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