African migrants leave Israeli detention facility, camp out at border

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police are evacuating by force more than 1,000 illegal African migrants who have been camping out near the border with Egypt to protest their treatment in Israel.

The migrants walked out of Israel’s Holot detention center on Friday and attempted to cross into Egypt, according to reports. The Israeli army prevented them from crossing the border.

On Sunday, some 100 Border Police began removing the migrants by force after giving them a half hour to board buses voluntarily. During the clashes, migrants threw rocks at the police.

The migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, live in the open detention facility, meaning they have freedom of movement but must check in three times a day, including for the last time at 10 p.m. They may not hold jobs. Some 2,300 migrants live in the facility.

They are protesting the wait — in some cases, years long — for processing their asylum requests. Israel has worked to find third countries in which to resettle the migrants and has offered them in some cases to return to their countries of origin.

“The Holot center is illegal because it violates our rights to liberty, freedom and to life, which are considered fundamental human rights,” the protesters said in a statement. “We decided to leave Holot and go to the Israel-Egypt border. We have no more tolerance to stay in prison, and we call on the international community to take care of us.”

The migrants have called on the United Nations to resettle them elsewhere.

More than 50,000 African migrants have infiltrated into Israel in recent years via Egypt. A recently erected security fence has been effective at keeping more of the migrants out of Israel. While some of the migrants are fleeing persecution in their native countries, many are seeking jobs.

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