ASIA/ISRAEL – Tension is always high in the detention camp in Holot

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Holot (Agenzia Fides) – Tension remains high in the detention center in Holot, in the Negev desert, where last week the malaise of prisoners gave rise to several initiatives of protest and mobilization, repressed by the Israeli police forces.
The intolerance of the conditions of life of those living in the camp and the uncertainty of their fate exploded once again on June 27 when about five hundred asylum seekers detained in Holot left the center and headed towards the Egyptian border, with the intention to cross it and enter Egypt. They were blocked by the Israeli army a kilometer from the border, and the prisoners stopped in the woods of Nizana, where they set up a camp, demanding the intervention and rescue of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the asylum seekers were brought back to the detention camp where many of them started a hunger strike. Others, after having experienced violence in clashes with Israeli police forces, were arrested and transferred to the prison in Saharonim. According to Fides Agency, on Saturday, July 5th the asylum seekers staged a protest demonstration in front of the prison.
That of Holot, in the Negev desert, is a detention center with more than 2,300 detainees, most of them of Christian faith. In the center there are Eritrean and Sudanese men who arrive in Israel after fleeing from their countries of origin. Prisoners 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 a desert area, far away from population centers, and detainees cannot use public transport for moving. 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 emptiness of the days, the shortcomings in terms of food and health confirm the impression of being in a prison camp. Most of them fear forcible repatriation to Eritrea or Sudan, which would put the lives of many at risk. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 07/05/2014).