Asylum seekers held at Israel’s Holot detention facility began a hunger strike last night, reported Haaretz, to protest the jailing of seven Eritreans who refused to leave Israel.
According to the newspaper, this is the first time that asylum seekers have been jailed for refusing to leave. The seven were taken to prison immediately after their pre-deportation hearings yesterday morning.
The paper added that even though “two of them survived torture in Sinai en route” to Israel, “their asylum requests were denied” by Israeli authorities.
As the men “refused to leave Israel for either Eritrea or Rwanda”, they will be jailed indefinitely “unless they change their minds”, as per the interior ministry’s new rules.
To date, Haaretz states, “the immigration authority has sent deportation notices to more than 100 of the approximately 900 asylum seekers at Holot”. The notices warn that if they don’t agree to leave, they face indefinite detention at Saharonim prison.
The Israeli government’s new rules “state that Eritreans and Sudanese who didn’t file asylum requests by the end of 2017, or whose asylum requests were rejected, can be deported to a third country.”
After receiving deportation notices, they have one month to decide whether to accept deportation or be jailed indefinitely.
There are currently about 40,000 Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel, including some 5,000 children born there. So far, only ten Eritreans and one Sudanese have been granted asylum.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press has spoken with African migrants deported by Israel, with one man explaining how the process worked in his case.
“They told me, ‘If you don’t leave you are going to jail’,” said Yohannes Tesfagabr, who fled from Eritrea in 2010 for fear of his life. “It’s forced. They tell you to say you are going voluntarily, but it is not voluntary. They force you to deport yourself.”