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Leaders of the Refugee Protest at Holot Transferred to Saharonim Prison

The Immigration Authority at the Holot “open” detention facility has started to arrest and transfer the leaders of ongoing protests taking place there to Saharonim prison. Yesterday (Monday), approximately twenty detainees were summoned for a hearing at the offices of the Ministry of the Interior in Holot, among them Muatasim Ali and Anwar Suliman, both known leaders of the asylum seeker community in Israel.

The detainees launched a protest last week, demanding their release and promising to fight until they reach a satisfactory solution. Since last Monday the detainees are no longer participating in the three daily roll-calls as required, refrain from leaving the facility and do not undertake any work within the compound. They are protesting against the very existence of the facility, in which they are detained for an unlimited period of time and without legal review. The Holot detention facility was established in accordance to the 4th amendment of the Anti-Infiltration Law, which was passed in December 2013.

During Ali’s hearing the Immigration Authority representative in charge accused him of encouraging others to break the facility rules, a claim that Ali denied. Eventually, Ali was sent to Saharonim for 30 days. “Ali and the others were not arrested because they broke the compound rules, but because the Immigration Authority is trying to suppress the protest”, said Adv. Carmel Pomerantz of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, who represented Ali during the hearing. “This is clearly a selective enforcement and a misuse of authority. The fact that only a handful among thousands were sent to prison demonstrates why in a democratic country the Minister of the Interior must not function as the legislator, the investigator and the judge in the facility”.

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants recently published a new report that reveals the unbearable routine of the facility residents. The report, “From One Prison to Another”, is based on interviews with the detainees, veteran asylum seekers who had been living in Israel for years and were torn from their lives. The report maps the prison’s structure, the daily routine, and the problematic conditions in Holot – mainly regarding healthcare issues. The authors emphasized that, whilst there is the possibility that the report may result in the improvement of conditions, “even under ideal conditions and perfect management, a denial of freedom and independence is inherent in the incarceration itself”.

The report also mentioned the difficult mental situation of the residents, who suffer from depression due to the lack of any productive activity and the unlimited detention. “From talking to prisoners, it becomes clear that the lack of control regarding any aspect of their lives, the inability to bring in most personal belongings, the lack of privacy, the uncertainty regarding the regulations of the place and the unlimited period of the prison time, crush the spirit of the detained asylum seekers. People, who only a few months ago led independent lives, are now wandering around like lions in a cage, sitting and staring into the air or sleeping for most of the day. Almost in every room one can find asylum seekers sleeping during the day, with blankets over their heads trying to escape the boredom and depression”

From One Prison to Another” report in English