In an act of complete desperation, a mainly Eritrean crowd of refugees in Israel have decided to March to the Sahara this Friday morning.
About one thousand refugees left the barbed wire protected Holot detention camp on their way to the Sahara to protest their mistreatment by Israeli authorities.
Eritreans have been escaping from their country in their tens of thousands for over a decade with no specific destination but in search of freedom. Tens of thousands are now found in many countries around the world.
UN records testify that 4000 Eritreans flee their country every month.
While many of those who made it to the West are already settled, others who ended up in the Middle East, mainly in Israel, were mostly rounded up and put in a detention camp.
Due to their large numbers, the refugees in Israel are in worse situation because they are not granted asylum. A refugee reached by telephone told Gedab News, “we found ourselves in similar situation to the one we escaped from!”
In 2013, Israeli authorities decided to intern refugees by rounding them up from cities where they resided for several years.
The rounded refugees, mainly Eritreans but including a few Sudanese and others, were take to the Holot detention camp in the Negev Desert. Around 2500 refugees are interned in the camp that the authorities call, “an open facility.”
The detained are considered illegal immigrants who violated Israel migration laws.
Before reaching Israel, many have suffered in the hands of ruthless human traffickers, hostage takers and human organ harvesters who crowd the Sinai Desert. Unknown numbers of victims have lost their lives in Sinai before making it to Israel.
Many of those who finally reached Israel had hefty amounts of ransom money paid on their behalf by their relatives who reside in many countries around the world.
While a small number of Eritrean refugees have comfortably settled in Israel, tens of thousands are left in a limbo without the protection of the Israeli state or UNHCR.
Recently the refugees have once attempted to march to the Egyptian side before they were stopped by border police at the demilitarized zone between Israel and Egypt.
The refugees who embarked on the journey to the Sahara have carried water and other necessities. But it doubtful if anyone can survive in such a difficult journey in deserts of the Middle East, or if they will be allowed to continue the journey in the first place.
Eritrean and Israeli human rights activists are appealing to the world community to find a quick solution to the predicament of the refugees.
Following the march, Israel authorities have arrested a few people at Holot Camp accusing them of being the organizers of the Sahara March.