Only some 10 asylum seekers arrived at a Tel Aviv pick-up location where buses waited to take them to a Negev detention center on Sunday. Six more asylum seekers, whose work visas expired, arrived at the detention center from Eilat.
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The first orders issued a month ago by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, instructing asylum seekers to report within 30 days to the Holot detention center, went into effect Sunday morning. The authority said 65 Africans had been ordered to report to Holot, and that it was providing buses to take them from Tel Aviv to the facility in southern Israel.
Those who did show up at the Tel Aviv parking lot from which the buses departed said they were unsure of what awaited them in Holot. Most of them expressed frustration at the government's decision to detain them at the holding center.
At a small tent set up in the Yad Eliyahu neighborhood in Tel Aviv, Population, Immigration and Border Authority officials registered the asylum seekers who arrived, and then boarded them onto a bus with their suitcases and belongings.
Mohammed, a 42-year-old asylum seeker, burst into tears near the bus. "It is not good for a person to go to jail," he said, recounting how he went from Egypt, where he said he was severely beaten by police, to Israel, where he was also imprisoned. He came to Tel Aviv after being released and said there is no way he can return to his homeland. "I don’t know what will be," he said.
Orders have been issued to 1,800 asylum seekers living in various cities throughout the country. The center can hold a maximum of 3,300 people, and the 303 people currently required to stay at Holot were transferred there six weeks ago from the nearby Saharonim detention center. Fifty of these left the facility – which is open during the day – and did not return.
Those required to stay at Holot are not allowed to work, and must report to the center three times during the day for roll call – morning, afternoon and evening. They must remain at the facility from 10 P.M. to 6 A.M.
According to a new amendment to the law on preventing illegal entry to Israel, a person who fails to return to Holot for more than 48 hours can be incarcerated for three months at Saharonim. The police and the population authority are preparing an operation in coming days to locate and detain asylum seekers who didn’t report on the date they were required to.
The Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers was expected to tour Holot on Sunday, for the first time since it opened. The Israel Prison Service has rejected the committee’s request that the media be allowed to accompany MKs inside the facility.