Outcast – Refugees in Holot, Israel

Outcast – in collaboration with Dafna Gazit

Some 45,000 Africans who fled war in South Sudan, genocide in Darfur and military dictatorship in Eritrea have sought shelter in Israel. They had to make a dangerous journey through Sudan and the dangerous Sinai Peninsula in Egypt – but Israel does not grant these refugees asylum.

Instead, under the “Anti-Infiltration Act”, all male African migrants are confined for twelve months in Holot camp in the southern Negev desert. There they are being pressured to accept voluntary deportation to their home country or a ‘safe third country’ like Uganda or Rwanda. More than 3,000 Africans are held in Holot, in an open detention camp. The prisoners are allowed to go out into the desert, but if they miss the check-ins or do not return overnight, they are jailed in the neighbouring Saharonim prison. Holot is a kind of ‘no man’s land’ that is intended to break the will of the detainees – in order to accept their voluntary deportation.

The strategy that Israel is applying is also spreading in Europe. In an attempt to prevent political crises and bypassing the UN refugee convention, governments have begun to deport ‘unwanted’ people into places where they are illegal or in danger. Refugees fleeing from war and oppression find themselves exposed to insecurity and exploitation instead of finding safety and security. Israel’s dealings with African migrants showcase what a closed-door refugee policy is heading for.