Asylum Seekers' Stands Near Holot Detention Center to Be Demolished

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African asylum seekers at the Holot detention facility protest the expulsion from Israel of others, February 17, 2014.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Ramat Hanegev Regional Council has issued demolition orders against the stalls in the “restaurant complex” next to the Holot detention center, which are all operating without the proper permits. These makeshift stands sell food, drinks and basic supplies to the asylum seekers being held in the facility. They are run by the asylum seekers themselves and serve the some 3,000 people detained there. The stands include a “bowling club” and other recreational activities and services.

Two weeks ago, the head of the regional council where the facility is located, Shmuel Rifman, wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office, Interior Ministry and Public Security Ministry – all of which are responsible for running the detention facility, demanding they close down the various stands and put them out of business. Rifman said what is going on around the Holot facility is not just the problem of the regional council, but that of the government, which so far “has not only not fulfilled its commitments, but has closed its eyes to the results and implications.”

The asylum seekers in Holot are required to be there from 10 P.M. until 6 A.M. Because the facility is in a remote location in the Negev desert and far from any major cities, and because they do not have work permits, most of the asylum seekers are forced to remain there, or near the facility, all day long. As a result they have built the makeshift complex just outside the fence of Holot.

Rifman said the residents have turned the shelters to provide shade from the sun built for them by the regional council into stores that sell alcohol, among other things, and the drinking there has led to violence. In addition, there has been a case recently of food poisoning from the improvised restaurants, and people have been wandering dangerously on the roads next to Holot at night, said the council’s spokeswoman.

The regional council says the government has taken responsibility for those detained at Holot. The Israel Prison Service is responsible for running the facility, but is only responsible for the residents when they are inside the facility. This has forced the council to allocate resources without being reimbursed by the government, says Rifman. The council pays for garbage collection from the illegal businesses, for example. The government has promised to locate an ambulance at the facility and build a fire station, but has not kept its promises, says the council.

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