Jewish Journal

Israel arrests 150 more African asylum seekers, just hours into second freedom march

by Simone Wilson

December 19, 2013 | 7:40 am

Photo via ActiveStills/Twitter

[Update, 6:20 p.m.: Abdul Hamid, a genocide survivor from Darfur who has been imprisoned in Israel for 18 months, just said over the phone that about 50 of the refugees are still walking. "We are going, we are still on foot," he said. "I'm going with my people." Indeed, Ha'aretz has reported that "dozens of other migrants sprinted into the desert, and the immigration officers are currently trying to track them down." Hamid confirmed that many prisoners who had been marching with him were arrested earlier — "They caught the people by force" — but said about half of the group hasn't been rounded up yet. As we were speaking on the phone, Hamid said he could hear the police coming behind him. He pleaded for human-rights workers to come pick them up before police got there. "We don't know who will come to take us," he said.]

[Update, Dec. 20: According to indie site Revolution News, half of the marching refugees "began to flee into the desert, without water, without food, and without any real chance. [A] short time later they were captured and detained violently."]

After a grand three-day march by 150 imprisoned African asylum seekers ended in their mass arrest in Jerusalem yesterday, Israeli border police nipped a second wave in the bud this afternoon.

Around 3:30 p.m., just a few hours after a second group of 150 asylum seekers left Holot — the state's newest desert prison for undocumented immigrants — and set out on Highway 211, cops in yellow vests and "IMMIGRATION" caps moved in for another round of arrests. According to photo-activist collective ActiveStills, police arrested the refugees "using harsh violence," with "only few activists in place and trying to help." (Arrests at the capital on Tuesday were aggressive as well, but dozens of photographers and reporters were there to capture them.)

The announcement of the second exodus earlier today was almost more inspiring than the first: It indicated that this struggle would be a steady build, not a falling rocket. Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, the org that oversees the plight of African asylum seekers in Israel, sent out the following statement around 2:30 p.m.:

Another group of about a 150 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers left Holot facility this morning and are now marching towards the north. They protest against the arrests of their friends on Tuesday, and demand freedom and an examination of their asylum claims. As for now we are not sure whether they are planning another demonstration and where.

So police took a more proactive approach than last time, closing in on the protesters before they even had time to emerge from the desolate south and show their faces in civilization.

Here's a video of them marching earlier in the day (via activist John Brown), when spirits were considerably higher:

For extensive photos and observations from the refugees' heroic march on the Israeli Knesset yesterday, see: "Freedom march ends in tears: 150 Sudanese refugees imprisoned after fleeing 100 miles to Jerusalem." And for more background on the harsh jail conditions they're living in, without so much as a trial, see: "Inside Israel’s new-and-improved desert prison for African asylum seekers."

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Simone Wilson is a 26-year-old journalist from Northern California currently living in Tel Aviv, Israel. She served as editor in chief of UC San Diego’s student newspaper, the...

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