Fence between Egypt and Israel, it was built in order to stop the flow of Africans entering into Israel. The Construction of the 245 kilometers border fence between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was completed after three and a half years. The government used African workers to construct the fence.
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Eritrean Wedding in Haifa, Israel.Malin Fezehai for TIME
Fence between Egypt and Israel, it was built in order to stop the flow of Africans entering into Israel. The Construction of the 245 kilometers border fence between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was completed after three and a half years. The government used African workers to construct the fence.
Harnet Solomon is 21 years old and the mother of one daughter. When she was crossing Sinai she was kidnapped and was held hostage for 5 months, were she was routinely raped and tortured. When she was released her husband that came before her was waiting for her in Tel Aviv. Her husband was suffering from mental problems and post-traumatic stress from his own torture in Sinai. One day he came up to his wife and just started stabbing her in a rage. Now Harnet is unable to work and is afraid to leave her house where she lives with her mother, daughter and other roommates.
Detainees outside of Holot Detention Centre. Then men are allowed to come outside but has to check in three times a day. If you don’t check in you risk being transferred to a closed prison.
A Sudanese detainee outside of Holot detention center.
Adam Ferwa, 24, is from Eritrea, and has been detained in Saharonim Prison for two years, without a hearing or due process. He was transferred to Holot the day before and this was his first day on the outside.
Nouraldin, 26 years old and has been in Israel for 6 years. He has been in Holot since March 9th. He is an asylum-seeker from Sudan, Darfur. “ I will always take pride in the way that I dress whether I am in Holot or in Tel Aviv”.
Hamid Hassan, 26 years old has been in detention since the beginning of February. “When I was living in Tel Aviv I stopped taking the bus when I noticed that people didn’t want to sit next to me. I found it embarrassing, so I completely stopped taking the bus and only riding my bike. Before I came to Holot I was working and helping my family back home. Now I'm not able to talk to them, because. I don't know how to tell then I'm inside a detention center.”
A group of detainees finishing up a barbeque in the desert. Many don’t feel like they are being feed well in Holot, so detainees form groups and put their money together in a pot that they use to buy their own food.
Moussa Abdoul from Central Africa, visiting his friends at Holot detention Centre, he is one of the few people in Israel that has refugee status Israel. When he applied for status the UN reviewed his case and gave him status. The UN has no longer any involvement in the refugee application process; the Israeli authorities manage it all. “ My situation might be different because I have status but Holot still affects me, because I used to live with 5 people and now 4 of them are in Holot, not only I am having problems with paying rent, I am also loosing all of my friends.”
Holot detention center.
Detainees trying to check back into Holot detention center due to a sandstorm outside. People stood outside without any water pleading with the guards for over an hour to let them in so they could take shelter.
Once a week there is a bus that transports new detainees to Holot detention center in the Negev desert. They have all received an “invitation” and if they don’t comply they will be arrested and sent to a closed prison.
A man sleeping in Levinsky Park next to the Central bus station. When refugees are released into Israeli society they are given a bus ticket to this bus station in Tel Aviv. Not knowing where to go, some refugees sleep in the park until they find housing, and it has become a central point for the African community.
During an Eritrean community meeting in Levinsky Park.
In the same week that people in Israel honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, a group of African asylum-seekers gathered in Levinsky Park, Tel Aviv for Global Darfur Day to commemorate the ongoing genocide in Darfur.  Despite the fact that Israel is signed to the UN convention on Refugees, it has not honored it, and has yet to recognize a single Sudanese national as a refugee. 
African asylum-seekers demonstrating the new detention law for African asylum seekers on their way to Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv.
African asylum-seekers demonstrating the new detention law for African asylum seekers on their way to Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv.
Eritrean Wedding in Haifa, Israel.
An Eritrean wedding party on a bus in Tel Aviv.
Eritrean Wedding in Haifa, Israel.
Samravit Solomon, a 24 year-old Eritrean asylum-seeker leaving a birth-day party in Tel Aviv. “Language is power, because as soon as I learned Hebrew, I was able to speak for myself, my family and the Eritrean community in Tel Aviv. I volunteer as a translator for Eritreans that don't speak Hebrew. I go with them to doctors appointments, court dates and really anywhere they are interacting with Israelis.”
Harnet Solomon is 21 years old and the mother of one daughter. When she was crossing Sinai she was kidnapped and was held hostage for 5 months, were she was routinely raped and tortured. When she was released her husband that came before her was waiting for her in Tel Aviv. Her husband was suffering from mental problems and post-traumatic stress from his own torture in Sinai. One day he came up to his wife and just started stabbing her in a rage. Now Harnet is unable to work and is afraid to leave her house where she lives with her mother, daughter and other roommates.
Lula, 5 years old, is homeless, along with her mother and sister. They move from place to place depending on others willing to house them. At the moment they are staying with five Eritrean men that let them sleep in the bedroom, while they themselves sleep in the living room. Their father disappeared one day after suffering from depression and nobody heard from him since.
Boshora Adam with his twin daughters in their home in Tel Aviv. Boshora has been in Israel for 5 years and has a conditional visa that he renews every 6 months. He will not be invited to Holot because he is married and that exempts him from being called.  “The hardest part about raising my children in Israel is that it’s becoming more segregated. All the Israeli children left my children’s school. Even on the playground you notice that parents keep their children away from African children, and this worries me for my children’s future.”
Eritrean worker on the beach in Tel Aviv.
A barbershop in Neve Sha'anan; an area in Tel Aviv where African asylum-seekers have opened stores and businesses.
The Eritrean Women’s Centre which provides daycare for refugee children in Tel Aviv, they are understaffed and rely almost solely on volunteers.
A Store in Neve Sha'anan, an area in Tel Aviv where African asylum-seekers have opened stores and businesses.
Eritrean asylum-seekers sleeping after working 12-hour shifts working in the hotel and restaurant industry. Many Africans live together to cope with the high rents in Tel Aviv.
Mutasim Ali, an asylum-seeker from Sudan is getting ready in the morning before appearing in court to appeal his invitation to Holot.
Mutasim Ali, an asylum-seeker from Sudan is leaving his home to appear in district court in Tel Aviv, Israel. He is appealing his "invitation" to Holot detention center. December of 2013, The Knesset added a new amendment to the Anti-Infiltration law that
Mutasim Ali in the elevator on his way to the district court room to receive the verdict of his appeal.
Mutasim Ali in hallway of the district court in Tel Aviv. For five years Mutasim has called Tel Aviv home, he speaks fluent Hebrew and is the CEO of ARDC (The African Refugee Development Center, a not-for profit organization). As CEO of ARDC, Mutasim is at the forefront of advocating for more than 50,000 African asylum seekers in Israel. The judge dismissed his case, and he was not allowed a hearing. Mutasim Ali entered Holot detention on the 5th of May. 
Ahmed Dahiya, 29, is packing to go to Holot detention center. "I have no idea what the future holds for me, one thing I am certain of, is that if I return to Sudan, I face life in prison or death.” Ahmed escaped military service in Sudan. “ They wanted me to fight my own people and when I refused and they detained me and tortured me, and then I escaped. Going back to Sudan is not an option for me.”
Holot detention center.
Nouraldin, 26 years old, Overlooking the Negev desert and Holot Detention Centre. He has been in Israel for 6 years. He has been in Holot since March 9th. He is a refugee from Sudan, Darfur. “Yesterday was the first time I ever lied to my mother. She asked me where I was, and I told her I was in Tel Aviv and everything is fine. She asked me why I was lying because she saw on the news in Sudan that they were putting Sudanese people in a prison. I have never lied to her before and I felt really bad about it.”
Eritrean Wedding in Haifa, Israel.
Malin Fezehai for TIME
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‘A Kind of Purgatory': African Refugees in Israel

Jul 07, 2014

By some estimates, 60,000 African asylum-seekers — mainly from Sudan and Eritrea — reside in Israel. For these men, women and children, the journey to the country is perilous: traversing hostile countries, often encountering bandits and facing the Egyptian and Sinai deserts before they even reach the border. Many who start the journey don’t make it. For those who do, they face a kind of purgatory rather than a home.

In Israel, these asylum-seekers are offered a temporary visa — called the 2(A)5 – that has to be renewed every three months, though they are not allowed to work. The State of Israel does not provide them with social assistance, and so many become cheap labor for various service industries, working, for example, as hotel housecleaners and groundskeepers while remaining under constant threat of arrest and detention.

Today, border crossings by asylum seekers has almost completely stopped – largely because of the 90-mile fence that Israel built on the border. (The government used African workers in its construction.) And while the exodus may have slowed to a trickle, the harsh realities of this purgatory remain.

On a sunny Saturday in Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv, I heard the hopelessness and frustration with recent government actions at a community meeting of Eritreans. The meeting was held in the wake of weeks of demonstrations by Africans against a new detention law. The mood was somber. In December 2013, the Israeli Knesset added an amendment to the Anti-Infiltration law. It requires asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to be automatically detained for at least a year and then placed, indefinitely, in an open detention center. The opening of Holot detention center at the beginning of this year followed the passage of the amendment. It currently holds more than 2,000 African asylum-seekers, with a plan in place to expand the capacity to about 8,000.

The demonstrations marked the first time this community made its presence known in Israel. Despite the demonstrations, the community remained in two minds, with some members discussing ways that they could make themselves more invisible. One speaker suggested that they shouldn’t pray in the park because it can upset Israelis, because they pay taxes for their parks and want this to be a Jewish country. The majority of the Eritrean refugees are Christians and the majority of Sudanese refugees are Muslim.

The country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to what he sees as illegal immigrants as being “infiltrators” in Israel. Worldwide, Eritrean and Sudanese nationals have very high rates of what the UNHCR calls “refugee recognition“: 82% for Eritreans and 68% for Sudanese. Israel, however, has one of the world’s lowest rates of refugee recognition. In addition, a Sudanese national known to have even entered Israel faces a 10 year prison sentence in Sudan, whether they have entered with or without a visa.

The point of the open detention center, and the general policy towards the “infiltrators” seems to be to pressure Africans to self-deport. As former Interior Minister Eli Yishai put it, to “make their lives miserable,“until they give up and agree to let Israel deport them to a third country, often Uganda. If you are an African male that has been in Israel for more than 5 years you will receive an “invitation” to Holot detention center. Detainees can leave the facility, but must report for three roll calls in the morning, midday and at night.

Holot is located in the desert near the Egyptian border. Detainees are left wandering the desert between check-ins, and are not allowed to leave from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. If you don’t report on time, you can be taken to the nearby closed prison of Saharonim. Many were forced to quit their jobs in Tel Aviv and are held indefinitely without trial or grounds for release. The only option they are given is to take an offered sum of $3,500 (U.S) to return to their country of origin, a third country, or to stay in Holot indefinitely.

Mutasim Ali is a 27-year old asylum-seeker from Sudan and is acknowledged by the United Nation High Commissioner as a refugee. Yet, the Israeli Ministry of Interior has not reviewed his case. He has been in Israel for 5 years, speaks fluent Hebrew and is CEO of ARDC (The African Refugee Development Center, a not-for profit organization). He was the first to appeal the administrative processes of receiving an “invitation” to Holot without having an opportunity to be heard. “When you take someone’s life,” Ali’s lawyer Asaf Weitzen, the head of the legal department at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an NGO, says, “and tear them apart from his friends, work and life, it should at the very least be done with due process and must include a hearing.”

The judge rejected Ali’s petition, and he was not allowed a hearing. He entered Holot in early May.

Malin Fezehai is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York. Follow her on Instagram. This series was produced in collaboration with producer Sarah Asreghan. Follow her on Twitter.

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