African Asylum Seeker Stays Positive in Israeli Detention Facility

Hassan Shakur Hopes To Go Home to Darfur

Down But Not Out: Hassan Shakur.
Daniel Bar-On/Haaretz
Down But Not Out: Hassan Shakur.

By Eetta Prince-Gibson

Published March 03, 2014.

(page 4 of 5)

Send-off by friends

Israelis soldiers found Shakur and took him to a detention center, then released him – an “illegal infiltrator” without papers, money or anywhere to go. Over the years, he has worked in various cities, including for two years in Tel Aviv. He has been hungry, beaten and cursed. He has also, he says, “met wonderful Israelis, who have offered me kindness and friendship.”

“But why, do some of your officials call us ‘cancer,’” he said, referring to the May, 2012 demonstration at which MK Miri Regev (Likud) referred to the Africans as “a cancer in our body.”

“Not everyone is a refugee, I agree. But some of us, like me, are. You could ask us, you could learn about us, check us out. I just need a place to be for a while, and if you let me work, I will contribute what I can, I will pay taxes, I will help others, and then I will go home when I can.”

The immigration authorities sent Shakur papers instructing him to report on February 9 to the parking lot outside the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. Half a dozen or so Israeli friends come to his apartment to see him off. He has carefully packed his belongings – and especially his precious books – in a trolley suitcase. He is leaving his laptop with its sunny slogan behind, because he has heard that laptops are not allowed at Holot. (A prison official confirmed this, but insisted that “soon detainees will be allowed to have laptops, too.”)

The immigration officials have set up a gazebo-like tent and address the prospective detainees politely, offering sandwiches and juice as they check them off against a long list. The day is balmy and sunny, the atmosphere oddly cordial, as if the detainees were boarding a bus to summer camp.

According to the officials on hand, at least 2,000 asylum seekers have to date received summonses to report to Holot. About 50 show up on this particular day; those who do not appear and are apprehended by the immigration police will be sent to a “full-fledged prison” not far from Holot.

Goor, an Israeli friend of Shakur’s, says: “I am ashamed of the way my country is treating you.”

“You should not be ashamed,” Shakur embraces Goor. “I will find a way to my rights, and this is not your fault. Most Israelis have done so much for me. Don’t feel sorry – it is I who is thanking you. I will think of Holot as a possibility. I will have nothing to do, so I will have time to study and, since I have an education, I will try to teach my friends, too.”

Shakur and the others board the large, powder-blue tourist bus. He sits near a window, waving good bye. As the driver revs the engines, they cross their wrists over their heads as if handcuffed, in the universal sign of nonviolent resistance.

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