Protesting Israel's Policies, Hundreds of Asylum Seekers Attempt to Cross Into Egypt

'Thank you very much, people of Israel, but we don't want to stay here,' says one of the African demonstrators marching toward border crossing.

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Asylum seekers near the border with Egypt, June 27, 2014.
Asylum seekers near the border with Egypt, June 27, 2014.Credit: Shirley Siedler

Hundreds of African asylum seekers left an open detention center in southern Israel on Friday afternoon and began marching toward a nearby border crossing with Egypt. The group said it wishes to cross into Egypt in light of the government's policies on asylum seekers.

Security forces prevented the group from reaching the border crossing, claiming the asylum seekers were entering a closed military zone. The military plans to send reinforcements in order to evacuate them from the area, and possibly arrest them for trespassing.

"After a few months in Holot (the Negev detention center) we realized that Israel was stalling and that it is not reviewing our asylum requests," one of the organizers of the protest told Haaretz. "We've reached the conclusion that there is no difference between Israel and Egypt, that the situation is bad everywhere. We are not going to stay locked up."

"I don't want to stay in Holot, I want to go to Egypt," said Nasser, an asylum seeker who has been in Israel foe three years and spent the last six months in Holot. "Thank you very much, people of Israel, but we don't want to stay here. We are being jailed even though we have done nothing."

Asylum seekers staying in Holot are protesting against the establishment of the facility, as well as against its conditions. The Population and Immigration Authority has begun moving the protesters from Holot open detention facility to Saharonim prison.

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