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2014-05-17

ASIA/ISRAEL - A detention camp in the Negev desert. Full of Christians

Holot (Agenzia Fides) In the Negev desert there is a detention center with more than two thousand prisoners, mostly of Christian faith. We are talking about the center of Holot, where Eritreans and Sudanese who arrive in Israel, having escaped from their countries of origin, are locked up. On 15 May, a delegation of 13 members of the Pastoral Care for Migrants of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, led by Patriarchal Vicar Fr. David Neuhaus visited the center to gather evidence and information on the living conditions of detainees. Only two members of the delegation were granted access to detention facilities. But the report of the visit, reported by the official media of the Latin Patriarchate and sent to Fides Agency, still manages to convey a vivid image of the days spent with the inmates.
At the moment, the structure houses 2300 men. But work is in progress to increase the receptivity of the center. The inmates are counted 3 times a day and the freedom of movement granted to them during the day remains entirely theoretical, since the center is located in the desert, far away from population centers, and detainees cannot use public transport to get around. Inmates sleep in a room with ten beds.
The vast majority of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and among them there are three priests. The sweltering heat, the shortcomings in terms of food and health care confirm the impression of being in a prison camp. "Why are we here? What crime have we committed? When will we be released?" Are the most frequently asked questions among inmates gathered by the delegation of the Latin Patriarchate . Most of them fear being sent back to Eritrea or Sudan, which would put the lives of many at risk. To make life in the camp less painful, they ask for better health care and books to be sent to them and teachers to fill the empty days. Currently asylum seekers in Israel are 50 thousand. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 17/05/2014)

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