They travelled thousands of kilometres, suffered from hunger, thirst, crossed the Sinai desert in Egypt, to end up in another desert, the Negev, in Israel. In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rocks and short bushes, inside a large security zone, that also counts a prison for Palestinians and a military base, the detention center of Holot opened last December. Israel had been forced by the Supreme Court to stop detaining asylum seekers without trials for up to three years. In reaction, the State transferred all the migrants, coming mostly from Sudan and Erytrea in that “open” center. But open is too much of a word: with three ID checks per day, a lack of contact with the outside world, no activities allowed, the asylum seekers of Holot have to face harsh conditions. Even more so now that Israel allows to detain them for indefinite periods of time, potentially for life.
The climate has gotten worse in the country, reinforced by the “no infiltration” policy enforced by the government, who doesn’t want to welcome the African migrants. They’re estimated to about 50.000. Last January, they had massively protested against the criminalization of the immigration.
Now, at Holot, they can “go out”, but that freedom is artificial. Every night, they have to go back inside, where they suffer from the cold, bad food and no perspective at all for the future. Half of them have already suffered from tortures and kidnappings in the Sinai, most have fled their country for political reasons or simply to escape wars. “Israel, we thought it was democracy”, Habtum, 30 years old, says sadly.
Far from the promised land, the country they have given so much to reach won’t offer them a future. Some can’t wait to leave it and go back to their family. If they’re ever freed.