Gov’t Tears Down Illegal Entertainment Center for Illegal Immigrants

A Group of young Eritrean people close the house which was set on fire In a suspected arson attack in an apartment in Jerusalem inhabited by foreign workers, leaving three people injured. Photo by Noam Moskowitz/ Flash90 *** Local Caption *** שריפה עובדים זרים אריתריאה גזענות אש תקיפה
A group of young Eritrean immigrants in Yerushalayim. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Out in the desert, literally in the middle of nowhere, a major market and entertainment center was established – and eventually, demolished overnight, by the Israel Lands Authority (ILA).

The reason: The market and entertainment center was built on state land – and that land is not for public or business use, even if it is in the middle of the desert, outside the Holot detention facility, close to the Sinai border, reported daily business newspaper Globes.

The Holot facility is where illegal Eritrean and Sudanese infiltrators are sent when they are caught in Tel Aviv and other cities in the center of the country. Detainees at the facility are there because they do not have visas to remain in Israel. Many of them claim to be political refugees, and thus demand that Israel give them residency permits; the government contends that most are economic refugees – migrant workers seeking jobs – for which a visa is needed. Until the matter is sorted out and their backgrounds, along with their chances of enduring political persecution if they return home, are examined, they remain in Holot.

Not quite a prison camp, Holot is a semi-closed facility, meaning that its residents are able to go outside the camp. Until a few months ago, however, there was literally nowhere for them to go. At that point, enterprising entrepreneurs, mostly Sudanese themselves, got the idea to open stores, cafés, pubs, and other establishments offering the bored residents of Holot all sorts of ways to pass time. Unfortunately for the residents, the buildings that were constructed for this center were illegally built – and built on state lands, as well.

In a statement, the ILA said that the entrepreneurs had “essentially established a center for entertainment and leisure activities that served hundreds of people a day, on land that had not been set aside for this purpose.” So far, 18 of the 24 buildings have been demolished – and the businesses have left. It’s unlikely that the business owners will file for compensation, the ILA said.