Photo diary: Inside Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention center for asylum seekers

In December 2013 Israel began populating the Holot detention facility for African asylum seekers, first with those who were held in other prisons and gradually with those who were until now living in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. The detainees at Holot are being held there without charge until they can be deported or such a time as their asylum claims are processed, which for many detainees means indefinitely.

Ahmad, who asked that we not use his last name in order to protect him from retribution by prison authorities, escaped from Darfur five and a half years ago and has been living in Israel ever since. Like many other asylum seekers, he recently was given a summons to report to Holot. Faced with no other option, Ahmad boarded an immigration police bus and arrived there on Sunday, February 1, 2014.

Prison authorities are not allowing photographers or journalists inside the Holot prison facility. The following are photos Ahmad took inside the detention facility. We hope to update this photo blog whenever possible with images — and occasionally text — in order to show what life is like inside Holot.

Read +972’s full coverage of asylum seekers in Israel

Day 43 – (March 17, 2014)

My employment notepad. We can work in maintenance  inside Holot. They pay you 20 NIS for 6 hours, and you need to work for at least 10 days to get the money.

My employment notepad, March 18, 2014. (Ahmad)
My employment notepad, March 18, 2014. (Ahmad)
Employment notepad, March 18, 2014. (Ahmad)
Employment notepad, March 18, 2014. (Ahmad)
Employment notepad, March 18, 2014. (Ahmad)
Employment notepad, March 18, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 42 – (March 16, 2014)

Yesterday evening one guy in our room wasn’t feeling well. I went to talk with gate prison and told him about it. He answered that it is not his responsibility. After I showed him to the room I asked to call the doctor. He allowed us to go to the doctor but when we got to the clinic we understood he wasn’t really a doctor but a male nurse. He tried to check him and gave him only four capsules. He was very sick and couldn’t sleep all night. Nobody takes care of us here.

The Dexamol capsules that my friend got, March 16, 2014. (Ahmad)
The Dexamol capsules that my friend got, March 16, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 42 – (March 15, 2014)

These are the two lines in which we are standing to receive an allowance. We have to wait long hours in order to receive 160 shekels.

The line for our allowance, March 15, 2014. (Ahmad)
The line for our allowance, March 15, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 41 – (March 14, 2014)

Taking a walk “outside”, March 14, 2014. (Ahmad)
Taking a walk “outside”, March 14, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 39 – (March 12, 2014)

Some friends near the gate awaiting new comers, March 12, 2014. (Ahmad)
Some friends near the gate awaiting new comers, March 12, 2014. (Ahmad)
Some friends playing soccer near the gate, at guards await new-comers, March 12, 2014. (Ahmad)
Some friends playing soccer near the gate, at guards await new-comers, March 12, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 37 – (March 10, 2014)

My breakfast, March 10, 2014. (Ahmad)
My breakfast, March 10, 2014. (Ahmad)
Our room, March 10, 2014. (Ahmad)
Our room, March 10, 2014. (Ahmad)
The guards at the gate, March 10, 2014. (Ahmad)
The guards at the gate, March 10, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 36 – (March 9, 2014) 

A view on the gate. (Ahmad)
A view on the gate. (Ahmad)

We stay 10 people in one room. Going up and down our beds all day. One shower and toilette for us 10.

A View on our toliet which serves 10 people. (Ahmad)
A View on our toliet which serves 10 people. (Ahmad)
Dinner. (Ahmad)
Dinner. (Ahmad)
Dinner. (Ahmad)
Dinner. (Ahmad)

Day 21 – Day 26 (February 22 – February 27, 2014) 

Notes: My friend was sick and got these painkillers. Right after he took them he got even sicker, in his stomach too. We were all awake at night because he wasn’t feeling well. Nobody in Holot cares about you when you don’t feel well, there is no medical center, only a small room. You either need to take public transportation to Beer Sheva, or you need to walk. If it is really bad they take you. I think they are trying to kill us. It made me very sad. It is only because of the color of our skin.

My friend was sick and got this from the small room that they call a clinic, Holot, February 24, 2014. (Ahmad)
My friend was sick and got this from the small room that they call a clinic, Holot, February 24, 2014. (Ahmad)
My friend was sick and got this from the small room they call a clinic, Holot, February 24, 2014. (Ahmad)
My friend was sick and got this from the small room they call a clinic, Holot, February 24, 2014. (Ahmad)

Notes: We get two cups of cheese and some jam for 10 people for breakfast. Sometimes we get dairy products, twice a week we get bread. Meat in lunch comes once a week on Thursday, and on Saturdays there is the worst food, as all the Israelis are on Shabbat. I get the feeling that they are trying to make us weaker and feel bad.

Our breakfast in Holot, February 23, 2014. (Ahmad)
Our breakfast in Holot, February 23, 2014. (Ahmad)
Our breakfast in Holot, February 23, 2014. (Ahmad)
Our breakfast in Holot, February 23, 2014. (Ahmad)

Notes: We are really bored here. We ask for the ability to study and they say no. Once the guard said we might be able to study English, but Hebrew for sure not. Every time we ask for something they say, “no, go back to your country.”

We keep food in the rooms because we get hungry, Holot, February 22, 2014. (Ahmad)
We keep food in the rooms because we get hungry, Holot, February 22, 2014. (Ahmad)
We keep food in the rooms because we get hungry, Holot, February 22, 2014. (Ahmad)
We keep food in the rooms because we get hungry, Holot, February 22, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 8, (Monday, February 9, 2014)

My bed, Holot, February 9, 2014. (Ahmad)
My bed, Holot, February 9, 2014. (Ahmad)
Food, Holot, February 9, 2014. (Ahmad)
Food, Holot, February 9, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 4 (Wednesday, February 5, 2014) 

“Lunch” at Holot, Fifth day, February 5, 2014. (Ahmad)
“Lunch” at Holot, Fifth day, February 5, 2014. (Ahmad)
“Lunch” at Holot, Fifth day, February 5, 2014. (Ahmad)
“Lunch” at Holot, Fifth day, February 5, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 3 (Tuesday, February 4, 2014)

“My friend from Darfur was singing a song on the Long Walk for Freedom, to strengthen us. The situation here is very bad.”

My friend singing a freedom song, February 4, 2014. (Ahmad)
My friend singing a freedom song, February 4, 2014. (Ahmad)
A view in Holot, February 4, 2014. (Ahmad)
A view in Holot, February 4, 2014. (Ahmad)
The sign at the entrance to Holot detention center, February 4, 2014. (Ahmad)
The sign at the entrance to Holot detention center, February 4, 2014. (Ahmad)

Day 2 (Monday, February 3, 2014):

A view outside Holot. Day two, February 3, 2014. (Ahmad)
A view outside Holot. Day two, February 3, 2014. (Ahmad)
Cooking on the ground outside Holot. Day two, February 3, 2014. (Ahmad)
Cooking on the ground outside Holot. Day two, February 3, 2014. (Ahmad)
Food trays, evening at Holot. Day two, February 3, 2014. (Ahmad)
Food trays, evening at Holot. Day two, February 3, 2014. (Ahmad)


Day 1 (Sunday, February 2, 2014):

“We arrived at Holot. This doesn’t feel like an open camp at all, this is a real prison. They say it’s not true, that I’m free as a newborn, but this is not the case.”

“Lunch” at Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
“Lunch” at Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
My room in Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
My room in Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
“Lunch” at Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
“Lunch” at Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
The line for the food at Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)
The line for the food at Holot. Day one, February 2, 2014. (Ahmad)