Top Runners Seeking Asylum in Israel Summoned to Detention Center

Two asylum seekers, both 20, recently finished in top 10 in Israeli 10-kilometer road-racing championships

Ilan Assayag

Two African asylum seekers with the potential to become world-class runners have been summoned to the Holot detention facility, where they will be unable to continue their training programs.

Meir Arazi

Jamal, from Sudan’s Darfur region, and Teddy, from Eritrea, are 20-year-old asylum seekers. The two men, who came to Israel separately four years ago, only began to train professionally last year. They train at the Hasimtathletics sports club in south Tel Aviv, where the coaches believe they could eventually compete at the international level.

Hasimtathletics was established some three years ago by the Yehoraz association, run by Prof. Asa Kasher.

Over recent months, Jamal and Teddy have been training at the club every day. Three weeks ago, both men finished in the top 10 in the Israeli 10-kilometer road-racing championships in Ashdod.

Meir Arazi

“If I go to Holot, I won’t be able to train,” Jamal told Haaretz Wednesday. “It’s not organized there, and there won’t be proper food,” added Teddy.

The Israeli Athletics Association has been trying to help the pair. IAA general secretary Jack Cohen has asked Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, and the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to keep them out of Holot. His requests have yet to be answered.

Jamal has a pre-detention hearing next week. Teddy had his hearing Wednesday and presented the letter from the IAA, but was ordered to report to Holot next month.

The population authority said, “At the end of August, the criteria for summoning infiltrators to the Holot lodging center were publicized [the authority does not define the facility as a detention center]. Any infiltrator with no impediment to being summoned is being summoned. If there are exceptional requests a formal request should be made, which will be examined on its merits.”