Hundreds of demonstrators, prevented from boarding buses to Jerusalem, began walking to Jerusalem Monday morning to protest their detention. African migrants, some of whom are on a hunger strike, staged a protest sit-in at the Beersheba bus station, Sunday night after walking for hours to escape a new detention facility that opened in Israel’s south last week.
The migrants were walking toward the capital — a distance of over 100 kilometers and Immigration authorities said they may arrest the protesters en route for violating the terms of their detention. Holot replaces the Saharonim prison complex, where migrants have previously been held. The new compound, where the terms of the migrants’ detention are somewhat more lax than at Saharonim, was erected after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that incarcerating the migrants without trial for up to three years, as was previously the standard, was unconstitutional.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said the migrants’ abandonment of the new detention site was to be expected as it was just another prison. “Without the possibility of working, the people have no reason to stay in such a facility, which is a prison in every sense of the word, except for the ability to leave,” he said, deriding the government’s description of the facility as “open.” “This incident proves once again that the government hasn’t found real solutions for those seeking shelter,” Khenin added. There are currently upwards of 50,000 African migrants and refuges in Israel. Some 1,750 were being held by the state when Holot opened, most of them at Saharonim.