Following a Supreme Court ruling in late August in response to legal petitions by NIF-supported organizations, the Israeli government has freed 1,178 African asylum seekers from the Holot Detention Center. In accordance with the court’s instructions, all Holot detainees who had been held for more than one year were released.
Upon release, the asylum seekers were given a two-month renewable residency permit, 80 shekels each, and strict instructions not to settle in either Eilat or Tel Aviv.
Adam, a 27-year old Darfuri asylum seeker who was interviewed by the Times of Israel, said that he came to Israel because he “heard that it’s the only democratic country in the Middle East and the conditions are much better than other countries in Africa. I heard that you can go to school, you can work and it’s a lot safer than Egypt.” But after a time in Tel Aviv, he was arrested and put in the Holot Detention Camp.
He was released last week and took a bus to Be’er Sheva, planning to stay with another asylum seeker who was a friend of his.
But now, after his imprisonment in Holot, living and working in Israel is no longer his goal. “I don’t want to stay here anymore. I don’t feel like a citizen,” he said. “I feel like I could end up back [in Holot] again. You never know.”
NIF groups will continue to advocate for a fair and sensible immigration policy that respects human rights and balances the ideal of the Jewish homeland with the Jewish obligation to help the stranger. It is in the absence of such a policy – and the lack of a clear policy with respect to undocumented migrants already living in Israel – that has pit asylum seekers against Israel’s urban poor.