Police on Sunday evening forcefully evacuated hundreds of African asylum seekers encamped near the Egyptian border. They had walked out of the Holot detention center on Friday in protest against Israel’s policy of detaining them indefinitely. Some 100 Border Police arrived at the makeshift camp that the asylum seekers erected in Nitzana Forest. After giving them half an hour to agree to leave, the officers began evacuating them by force, and clashes broke out between the two sides.
“Our aim is to get you on the buses in an orderly fashion, without the use of force and without involving the immigration authority,” the police representative told the asylum-seekers, who chanted back, “We don’t want to!” and “freedom!” Earlier in the day, protesters said they feared they would be arrested and brought back to the Holot facility in the western Negev.
Later Sunday, the migrants declared a hunger strike, appealing in a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for a solution. The migrants, who trekked to the border crossing at Nitzana with the stated intention of crossing into Egypt, had camped in the forest after Israeli border guards would not let them cross.
By Saturday afternoon, they had erected the protest camp in the forest, complete with a mobile clinic set up by Doctors for Human Rights and a mass morning prayer session led by Eritrean Christian faith leaders from Tel Aviv. A few protesters had left the site and returned to Holot, seemingly because of the harsh conditions in their tent camp – though dozens of Sudanese and Eritrean nationals arrived in their place from the center of the country, as well as two priests from the Eritrean community.