BEIRUT

Middle East

African immigrants in Israel on mass hunger strike

Israeli policemen and immigration officers arrest an African asylum seeker after spending the last two days protesting in an outdoor camp near the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt in the Negev Desert on June 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO/OREN ZIV

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Hundreds of illegal African immigrants began a hunger strike Monday after Israeli police forcibly broke up a sit-in they were staging along the Egyptian border.

Around 1,000 Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, had marched Friday to the border and set up a makeshift camp to protest against their “inhuman and unlimited” detention at Holot facility.

Israel opened Holot detention camp in the Negev desert last year as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, with the facility open by day but locked down at night.

The demonstrators have said Holot is akin to prison.

They are calling on the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) to intervene to allow them to immigrate to a third country.

But Sunday evening, police and immigration officials “violently” broke up the border encampment and took the demonstrators to Saharonim, another detention camp for African immigrants, the demonstrators said in a statement.

“We have been taken to Saharonim prison. Some of us have injuries including to the face and limbs. In protest of this violence, and our ongoing imprisonment we have now started a hunger strike,” it said.

Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for the Israeli immigration authority confirmed that 779 people had been evacuated during the arrest operation.

“Each one will be brought before a committee to explain why they violated the rules,” she said.

“They could face up to three months imprisonment for this offence,” she said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 01, 2014, on page 10.

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Summary

Hundreds of illegal African immigrants began a hunger strike Monday after Israeli police forcibly broke up a sit-in they were staging along the Egyptian border.

Israel opened Holot detention camp in the Negev desert last year as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, with the facility open by day but locked down at night.

Sunday evening, police and immigration officials "violently" broke up the border encampment and took the demonstrators to Saharonim, another detention camp for African immigrants, the demonstrators said in a statement.


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