Three Arrested After Violence at Holot Detention Center

Asylum seekers complained to staff of not having enough food and then a fight broke out; one officer treated for injury.

Shirly Seidler
Shirly Seidler

A violent clash between asylum seekers detained at the Holot and the facility’s staff following complaints of a food shortage left one officer wounded on Tuesday. Police at the southern detention facility arrested three asylum seekers involved in the incident.

The scuffle is the first violent confrontation of its kind to arise at Holot, which was recently opened and soon thereafter filled with 300 asylum seekers who were transferred from Saharonim prison.

According to the asylum seekers, they are normally not served meals until noon, but on Tuesday, they were not served food until 3:00 P.M. They complained to staff and a violent confrontation ensued, during which a detainee kicked a police officer who later received treatment.

Tomasagi, an asylum seekers who witnessed the clash, said “we went and complained that we had no food, but the jailors began to hit us, and spray us with gas to get us to go away. They broke someone’s teeth, and broke someone else’s hand.”

An Israel Prison Service spokesman said the detainees receive a variety of foods, at fixed hours, like in all other Israel Prison Service facilities, and that Holot detainees receive food at other times, as well. They also denied the claims of violence, saying only the officer need medical attention after the incident.

“We reject the detainee claims regarding the food shortage,” the spokesman told Haaretz. “There is enough food there, and a selection as well. This incident was based on a discipline issue, and was dealt with by police on the scene.”

The spokesman said detainees know where to direct complaints and accused them of intentionally misrepresenting events in order to cause a stir. The three asylum seekers arrested were transported to a Dimona police station for questioning, after which they will be transferred to a different facility.

On Sunday, the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers toured Holot to inspect conditions. MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said there’s an unlimited amount of food available. Committee chair MK Michal Rosin (Meretz) said, however, that “at the end of the day, the feeling there is not of freedom, but rather of a fierce notion of prison. We met desperate, hopeless people, who do not know what their fate will be, or when they will leave this place. Efforts are underway to improve conditions there, and provide the best possible services.”

Asylum seeker arrives at Holot detention center in January 2014. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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