News / Middle East

    African Asylum Seekers in Limbo at Israeli Detention Center

    African Asylum Seekers in Limbo at Israeli Detention Centeri
    X
    Scott Bobb
    March 26, 2014 6:09 PM
    The Israeli Supreme Court is due to begin hearings April 1 on a controversial law that has allowed the government to detain thousands of African migrants who are seeking political asylum. The migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, say they fled repression in their home countries, but the Israeli government says they are merely looking for work. VOA’s Scott Bobb visited the detention center in Holot, near Israel’s border with Egypt, and has this report.
    Scott Bobb
    The Israeli Supreme Court is due to begin hearings in April on a controversial law that has allowed the government to detain thousands of African migrants who are seeking political asylum.

    The migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, say they fled repression in their home countries, but the Israeli government says they are in Israel mainly looking for work.

    At the Holot detention center near Israel's border with Egypt, residents were outside one day recently, chatting and passing the time. One of the youngest was Nuraddin Ismail, a slender man from Darfur, Sudan.
     
    Ismail has been a refugee for nearly a decade. He fled his home after government forces destroyed his village and arrested him. He was 16 years old.
     
    "They targeted me as if I belonged to the rebels," he said. "I was arrested twice. That's why I can't live a normal life there like anyone else. So I left my country," he said.
     
    Ismail spent four years in Chad and Libya before crossing Egypt's Sinai desert into Israel. His family remained behind in a refugee camp.
     
    Ismail said many asylum-seekers were killed trying to cross the Sinai. Rights groups say others have been held for ransom, beaten and raped.
     
    Those who make it to Israel are allowed by the government to stay while they apply for political asylum.
     
    In the early years of the refugee movements, some found low-paying jobs, primarily with hotels, restaurants or cleaning companies. Often they would join together in groups to rent a small apartment.
     
    But in the last seven years, their numbers grew to more than 50,000. Many were concentrated in poor urban areas, whose other residents often resented the Africans' presence. The immigrants were blamed for rising crime rates, but police say this is not true.
     
    Border fence

    Alarmed by the growing number of immigrants as well as by a rise in cross-border terrorist attacks, the Israeli government built a five-meter-high fence with sophisticated detection equipment along the border with Egypt . The fence, 230 kilometers long, was completed in January 2013, and it has almost eliminated the influx of new migrants.
     
    But the government decided to go further. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told parliament earlier this year that he is "determined to remove from here those who succeeded in entering before we closed the border."
     
    "These are not refugees,” he said. “We are talking about illegal workers infiltrating, and we are determined to bring them to justice."
     
    A law passed in 2012 authorized detention of illegal migrants for up to three years, but Israeli courts overturned it.
     
    The government passed a new law last year that allows it to detain illegal migrants for up to one year at the Holot facility.
     
    Return offer
     
    Israel also offered migrants $3,500 and a free ticket home - or to a third country - Uganda, according to news reports, which both Israeli and Ugandan governments have denied.
     
    The law allows the government to detain indefinitely those migrants who refuse the return offer. Israeli rights groups are challenging the law before the Supreme Court.
     
    In December authorities began ordering asylum-seekers to report to Holot or be sent to nearby Saharonim prison. They say Holot's population has doubled each month, reaching 1,500 in March, according to Interior Minister Giedon Sa'ar. It can hold up to 3,000 people.
     
    Holot facility
     
    The government calls Holot an "open facility." Residents are allowed to leave during the day, but they must report in three times during the hours they are outside. Failing to do so could send a camp resident to Saharonim prison. Visitors, including reporters, are not allowed.
     
    The rules allow the residents enough time to visit Beer Sheba, the regional hub, one hour away. It is not enough time to travel to Tel Aviv or central Israel, however, where most of the migrants' families and friends live.
     
    Thirty-six-year-old Emmanuel Abraha, who arrived in Israel five years ago after deserting from the Eritrean army, said: "Holot is not a prison. But it's certainly not an open facility. There is no trial, but there's no hope you'll be released. It feels like life imprisonment."
     
    He said conditions are difficult. Residents are not allowed to bring in food or have guests.
     
    Thirty-three year-old Adwar Souleiman, who came from Darfur, recalled how many Israelis' forebears suffered for centuries as refugees, and said the African migrants should be treated less harshly.
     
    "We are human beings,” he said. “We fled our country because we have problems," he said. "Israel, like any democratic country, must take responsibility for us. We are not against the government, the citizens or the Jewish religion."
     
    The government said nearly 4,000 migrants have accepted the return offer and left since the beginning of the year. Many others have turned it down, though, saying it is better to live in limbo at Holot.
     
    Nouraddin Ismail said if he returns home, the Sudanese government will suspect him of being an Israeli spy.

    "I only have two choices," he said. "I stay here forever, or I go back to my country and get killed."

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: anon89
    April 12, 2014 5:55 PM
    South Africa is reducing it's political refugee numbers while numbers continue to swell inside the EU, Israel, Australia, etc. because of their own reforms to control the numbers: http://www.irinnews.org/report/92286/south-africa-new-laws-mean-new-hurdles-for-asylum-seekers; while refugees do not protest there. Nor do they seek political asylum in the African nations they travel through to get the sea. They continue to flood nations outside of Africa with better economic conditions then break out into violence when their political asylum status is questioned according to that nation's policies; and/or when they are not automatically given work and living conditions to their satisfaction. And their solution is to break out in violence and call the host nations "racists." This is happening more and more in places like Greece, France, Italy, Australia, Israel, Germany, etc. Apparently smuggling refugees out of Africa is big business in Africa and some are making big profits from it, yet no one questions their practice? So, yes, why don't these refugees seek asylum in places like Saudia Arabia, Dubai, India? The United African nations would not tolerate protests and violence and their laws require immediate deportation; immediate deportation is the lawful and correct thing to do for any host nation. There are increasing news reports of refugees violence in host nations and they are beginning to look more like terrorists than anything else. Anyone shaming a nation for resorting to immediate deportation and/or imprisonment of these hostile "guests" obviously don't live in the "host" communities where living conditions are being degraded and worsened by the day with numbers of indigent peoples too great to sustain. The solution is to now pay them to leave, and you can see where that will, more people coming over to get the paid to leave. Why can't Africa get it's own act together?

    by: wenyin from: canada
    March 27, 2014 10:06 PM
    My heart goes out to these assylum seekers but, make no mistake Israel have not done anything to the contrary. We all know that United Nation demends that Israel stops settling Phalastinian's refugees. I've always wondered, why don't muslim refugees seek assylum in those oil rich muslim's countries like Saudi Arabia..etc ?
    Why do they choose Israel since they consider it an enemy state to all muslims? They don't even show Israeli's map in their educational materials! These people are into something and Israel have the right to send them back.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.