African Asylum Seekers Now Free, but Have Nowhere to Live

Barred from Tel Aviv and Eilat, those released from Holot detention facility say they have no jobs or housing solutions anyplace else; some were forced to sleep in public parks.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea after their release from Holot, August 26, 2015.
Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea after their release from Holot, August 26, 2015.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovich
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The release 1,178 asylum seekers from the open detention facility in Holot ended on Wednesday, in keeping with an order by the High Court of Justice.

The 587 people still in the facility have all been there less than a year, the maximum period permitted under the court’s ruling two weeks ago.

But the number is soon expected to grow again, as the Interior Ministry plans to send other Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to replace those who left.

Holot is capable of holding 3,360 people, though in the 20 months since it opened, it has never held more than 2,200 asylum seekers.

Those who have left Holot over the last two days are barred from living or working in Tel Aviv and Eilat, by order of Interior Minister Silvan Shalom.

They say their friends are all in one of those two cities, and they have no jobs or housing solutions anyplace else.

Some have been forced to sleep in public parks, while others have moved in temporarily with other asylum seekers.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said in an interview with Channel 10 television’s “London & Kirschenbaum” program on Wednesday that despite the ban, the freed asylum seekers are coming to Tel Aviv. But he didn’t explain on what he based this assertion.

Jaffar, an asylum seeker from Sudan who was released on Tuesday after 20 months at Holot, told Haaretz he spent Tuesday night at a public park in Be’er Sheva, as he doesn’t have enough money to rent a room.

Another Sudanese asylum seeker, Faisal, said he looked for a place to stay in Ashdod, but to no avail. In the end, he slept at the home of a friend in Petah Tikva.

“I went to Ashdod, returned to Petah Tikva, went back to Ashdod and went back to Petah Tikva,” he said.

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