A few hundred African migrants protested against the ‘infiltrators law’ last week, sending back meals for a couple days to protest the law that allows for them to be jailed for up to three years without trial for illegally entering Israel, the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) said Monday.
IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weitzman said that between 400-500 migrants held at Saharonim Prison sent back meals over the course of two days last week. Weitzman said the IPS only considers a protest a hunger strike once an inmate has refused over six meals. African migrants in south Tel Aviv said this week that the protest began on the 8th of October when a group of a few dozen Eritrean women recruited the rest of the around 1,000 Eritrean detainees in Saharonim to go on strike, after they found out that they stood to be jailed for three years.
Many of those who went on strike were also reportedly under the impression that they could possibly be returned to Egypt. Activists said the strike continued until Sunday and that four of the hunger strikers were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for treatment and others were given infusions by prison officials.
Weitzman denied the report, saying that none of them needed to be hospitalized, only that a few were given medical treatment at the prison. She added that “there are always people being hospitalized [from Saharonim] at Soroka for different reasons, like malaria, tuberculosis, etc.” The hunger strike took place at the same time that Interior Minister Eli Yishai paid a highly-publicized visit to Saharonim in order to observe the construction of the nearby detention facilities being built to house thousands of African refugees, and set to be completed in the coming months. Yishai arrived at the main gate of Saharonim, gave a short press conference and then was taken inside Saharonim for a visit, before leaving minutes later. No press was allowed inside the prison to accompany Yishai.