Post by Tedros (pseudonym), an Eritrean asylum seeker living in Israel. Tedros compiled this post with the help of Maayan Ravid, a researcher he met while in immigration detention. The post is based on past interviews, conversations and FB posts that Tedros wrote during his last months of detention in Holot Facility. This is the second instalment of Border Criminologies’ themed series organised by Maayan Ravid on ‘Border Control and the Criminalisation of African Asylum Seekers in Israel’.

My name is Tedros, I am 28 years old, originally from Eritrea, the oldest son in my family. I currently live in Israel as an asylum seeker. I am telling you my truth!

'The First Deportees' photographed for an article on Israel's planned deportation in February 2018 (Photo Credit: Shani Zadonyeski for Ynet magazine)

I came to contribute to this series through my connection with the series organizer, Maayan Ravid, who I met when she came to do research in Holot Facility. I was detained in Holot and assisted Maayan with her interviews and translations. We kept in touch since then, and after my release. When Maayan told me of this series and asked me if I wish to contribute my perspective, I agreed. I want to share my personal experience in this series, as I believe telling my truth can help me and many others in similar situations. I think we need to work together, we need others to speak our truth, and use their expertise and support us. It gives us hope that our situation is not forgotten, and maybe change can come.  

I left my homeland ten years ago because of the difficult situation. I had a good childhood, I enjoyed spending time with my family, we had land and resources and I had dreams of growing up and getting an education. When I was in the 10th grade, I was taken by force to the military. I was there for 2 years, with no chance to see my family. I was afraid to speak, so I wouldn't be put into prison, and kept there my whole life. My father is over 60 years old, and was just taken to the military again. In 2008 I escaped through the border to Ethiopia and from there to Sudan. I didn't find a safe place, so I kept going, seeing many women, children, young people who died along the way.

I continued through Egypt, traveling through the desert. When I arrived in the Sinai desert, I was tortured terribly by Bedouin smugglers, like many others in my situation. They would tie us, beat us and deprive us from any food. Many people were held like this through torture, for ransom. I had to call my family to ask for help, they sold everything they could to pay for my release.

Posters with photos of asylum seekers with pending deportation orders were hung up overnight around the streets of Tel Aviv by Israeli activists (Photo Credit: Activestills for +972 Magazine)

Once I got out of the smugglers hands, we tried to cross the border but were shot by Egyptian soldiers. Several of my friends were killed, I was shot in the shoulder, and I am still living with the bullet inside my body. I nearly died, and was taken to prison in Egypt, in an underground facility. For one year, I didn't see the sunlight.

When I was released, I managed to escape Egypt and enter Israel in 2011. I was immediately arrested by Israeli soldiers with everyone in my group. They sent us to the prison called Saharonim. After staying 3 months in prison I was released with a conditional visa – a piece of paper for identification which does not allow me to work with full legal rights.

I was given a bus ticket to Tel Aviv. I went to Tel Aviv but had nothing for my basic needs. I knew nobody, nor knew the Hebrew language. It was so complicated. I used to sleep on the street, homeless, for about two weeks near the Central Bus Station. By chance one refugee took me to his place and provided for my basic needs. Then I started to work difficult jobs with low pay such as construction, and dish washing. I had to renew my visa every two months.

I applied to get asylum but unfortunately was denied.

In 2016 I was summoned by the Israeli government to Holot. They said I must leave the country, or stay for a year in the prison. I had a childhood friend who agreed to leave Israel, after living here five years, and having his asylum request rejected. He spoke to me when he arrived in Rwanda, he told me Israel’s promises were not kept, he was left with no documents, and robbed of all his money by smugglers in Uganda. He tried to get to Europe to seek asylum, but died on the way. Sadly, I lost him in the Sahara Desert on his way to Libya. I preferred to face prison rather than to go to death trail. I decided to stay in Israel. I was caught by immigration and taken to prison. I was kept almost sixteen months – 4 months in Saharonim (punishment for not reporting into detention in time), and one year in Holot.

I know people say Holot was an open center, but I call it a prison. In Holot, immigration personnel treated us worse than dogs. They oppressed us, make us afraid. People were in anxiety, depression, discourage, insanity. It was terrible and stupid. They transfer some of us to Saharonim (the closed jail) some of us were not allowed to go outside of the camp, they closed our magnetic card, so we couldn't move from place to place. It didn't feel open at all.

I was almost finished with my time, and thought I would be released to have a normal life, when in the start of 2018 the Israel government wanted to deport us to a third country. The government said we must leave for a third country in Africa, or stay in Saharonim prison indefinitely. I was one of the first guys to receive a deportation order. Israel’s government wants me to go where my best friend lost his life.

I give thanks to the people of Israel, they support us, struggle with us, and they stopped the deportation.

Detainee outside Holot Facility (Photo Credit: Maayan Ravid)

In March 2018, the government closed Holot, and I was released with conditional visa which does not allow me to live or work in 7 of Israel’s biggest cities. There is also a new law that cuts 20% of the salary, for anyone working legally. Since then life became much more difficult for me. 10 years have passed without any status and any sense of future. I try to start life over, but I am dealing with deep depression, anxiety, and trauma. The biggest problem is that Israel’s government tries very hard to make our lives miserable even when we cooperate. It is a psychological war, leaving us without any hope and future, only wasting our lives away.

I want to tell the Israeli government, go back and remember your own history for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, and sadly in the terrible situation you had in the Holocaust. Think back, and be good to others. We are refugees, asylum seekers. You call us work seekers, infiltrators, illegals; but we are seeking asylum. As soon as there is peace in our country, I would rather not stay here a single night. I don't want anything from this place, I don't want your land, just refuge until we are safe.

I would like to ask - please do not play with innocent refugees as part of your own political issues, right wing and left wing. We seek basic human rights. We kindly demand to check our problems and grant us temporary shelter until our country becomes safe.

Finally, I would like to say thank you so much to the dedicated people. To those who open their home and hearts for us. We are so grateful. We need your support and your help. We kindly request - please be a voice of a voiceless and innocent refugees. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Remember the power of hope. I strongly believe if we stand, work and help each other with respect for our difference we are always stronger together. And our best days are ahead of us!

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Tedros (2018) A Life of Impossible Choices. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/09/life-impossible (Accessed [date]).