Dozens of African Migrants Arrested After Leaving Detention Facility

Some 100 set out on a solidarity march on Thursday, three days after more than a hundred more headed to Jerusalem to protest detention policy; Immigration Police chasing dozens more who escaped arrest.

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About 100 African migrants left the Holot detention center on Thursday afternoon and began marching toward Be'er Sheva.

Immigration Authority officers arrested dozens of the marchers near the facility and forced them to board buses to return. Dozens of other migrants sprinted into the desert, and the immigration officers are currently trying to track them down.

The migrants set out on the solidarity march three days after hundreds of other detainees refused to return to the open center as required on Monday, marching instead toward Jerusalem to protest the government's detention policy. The migrants were forcibly boarded onto buses and returned to the detention facility.

One of the migrants who left the facility on Thursday with the goal of reaching Tel Aviv told Haaretz that he and his friends came to Israel seeking refuge, not detention, and would rather be in the hands of an international refugee agency if not free to work in Israel.

"Our stance is clear," said the migrant, Mohammed, who arrived from Sudan via the Sinai Peninsula. "Either grant us asylum or give us to an international refugee agency."

The migrants who left Holot on Thursday set out in small groups so as not to raise the suspicion of the Prisons Service wardens and gathered in a nearby bus station, from where they began to march. Some ties their hands or held them crossed in a show of solidarity with friends currently in jail. They did not say where the planned to go, other than to a big city.

Some 278 of the 300 migrants required to check in over the course of the day at the facility slept there on Wednesday night. The migrants are allowed to leave the facility between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M., but must check in three times and day and are not allowed to work.

African migrants walking away from the Holot detention facility on Thursday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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