Report says African refugees 'suffer' in Israeli prisons

African asylum seekers in Israeli prisons suffer from 'deep deficiencies' in overcrowded Israeli prisons, says Israeli rights group

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

African refugees protesting in Israel.

A report by an Israeli rights group said on Monday that African refugees and asylum seekers suffer from “deep deficiencies” due to the conditions in “overcrowded” Israeli detention centres and called on the Israeli government to improve them.

Emphasising the “deviation” in Israel’'s detention and imprisonment policy for foreigners in the last decade, the rights group encouraged the government officials to apply those policies as “exceptional measures” as the UN guidelines stipulate.

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants’ (HRM) report revealing the major insufficiencies at the Israeli prisons said that detainees are forced to stay in overcrowded rooms which are shared by at least 12 people and stated that the detainees' right of movement is limited as in some detention centres detainees are barred from leaving the facility. According to the report, at the Yhalom facility there are no shared public spaces available for detainees.

“Overcrowding and lack of freedom of movement; shortages of translators, health services, clothing and hygiene products; insufficient amounts of food and lack of access to legal representation - just an overview of the situation,” the group wrote on their Facebook page, describing the conditions.

At one of the most controversial prisons, Saharonim in the Negev desert, asylum seekers awaiting hearings on their status or meetings with lawyers are left in a crowded cage without food or shelter from the weather - extreme heat in the summer and sandstorms in the winter, the detainees testified told the Hotline activists.

The asylum seekers also claimed that they did not know the purpose of the hearings, as it was not explained to them, and they usually did not receive legal representation.

The activists for the Hotline interviewed 72 detainees and obtained data from Freedom of Information requests and official reports.

Israeli detention centres hold around 5,000 asylum seekers and refugees, the majority are Sudanese and Eritreans who are held in the Saharonim prison and Holot detention centre.

According to the Hotline, the main reason of insufficiencies is Israel’s migration policy which is “based on detention. If the Israeli state doesn'’t change it’s policy, the small portioned detention centres would not be sufficient to provide necessary services to the detainees, the report concluded.

The organisation that prepared the report also stressed the necessity of other NGO's to be provided access to detainees in order to offer their services.

In a report released on late 2015, HRM have stated that Israeli officials “false promises” on accommodation and documentation left African refugees vulnerable, as their papers were confiscated upon their arrival in the country.

TRTWorld and agencies