Police Bust Protesting Africans in Jerusalem, Send Them Back to Negev Detention Center

Some 70% of the migrants sent to the new 'open facility' left it and made their way to Jerusalem to Israel's protest detention policy.

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A large contingent of police on Tuesday forcefully arrested and sent back into detention the roughly 150 African migrants who had marched out of a Negev detention center and come to the Knesset to protest. The Africans were either bussed back to the Holot detention facility or to Saharonim prison, depending on how many days they’d been free.

The demonstrators left Holot earlier this week and marched to the community of Nahshon, where they spent Monday night. At 9 A.M. Tuesday they made their way to the capital on buses paid for by human rights organizations. The demonstrators marched from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Knesset and demonstrated there, surrounded by a large police force. MKs Michal Rozin (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) invited the migrants to attend a Knesset debate, but the police blocked them from entering.

At around 3 P.M. the police and inspectors from the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority began to forcibly break up the demonstration, reportedly on the orders of Interior Minister Gideon Saar. The demonstrators were dragged back onto the buses, with some of them yelling, “No more jail,” and “Freedom.” At first some migrants with valid visas were also forced onto the buses, but they were soon released. The authority said that migrants who had been absent from Holot for 48 hours or more would be sent back to Saharonim, while those who had left within the previous two days would be returned to Holot.

“The violent dispersal was shameful and unnecessary,” said Rozin, who chairs the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers. “There was no need to stop them so violently, with 10 policemen for every asylum-seeker.” MK Ilan Gilon, also of Meretz, echoed her remarks. “Every person with a conscience has to participate in this march,” he said. “We came to reduce and document the violence that the immigration authority is using against asylum seekers and social activists. They can’t play dumb and say it didn’t happen.”

Yossi Edelstein, head of the authority’s Enforcement and Foreigners Administration, blamed the human rights activists for provoking things. He said the activists had incited the migrants and encouraged them to demonstrate and resist being returned to Holot.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the issue during a Border Police ceremony on Tuesday. “We are determined to enforce the law,” he said. “And this also applies to illegal work infiltrators. The infiltrators who were moved to the special facility erected for them can remain there, or go back to their countries.”

During the demonstration, the Africans called on the state to evaluate their requests for asylum, grant them protection and not detain them again.

They carried signs reading, “I didn’t choose to be a refugee” and “The Holot facility is a jail.” Demonstrating with them were about 50 migrants who are not housed at Holot, and human rights activists. Holot inmates can come and go during the day, but must check in three times a day and return by dark, when the facility locks down.

African migrants walk on a road after leaving the Holot detention facility, Dec 15, 2013Credit: Reuters
African migrants walk on a road after leaving the Holot detention facility, Dec 15, 2013
African refugees marching to Jerusalem. December 16, 2013.
Protesting African migrants held by Israeli police officers, Jerusalem, December 17, 2013.
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African migrants walk on a road after leaving the Holot detention facility, Dec 15, 2013Credit: Reuters
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African refugees marching to Jerusalem. December 16, 2013.Credit: AFP
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Protesting African migrants held by Israeli police officers, Jerusalem, December 17, 2013.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
African refugees marching to Jerusalem

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