Nearly 1,000 illegal African immigrants in Israel on Friday staged a march towards the southern border with Egypt to protest against living conditions in their internment camp, public radio reported.
Israeli soldiers stopped the demonstrators, most from Eritrea and Sudan, nearly 300 metres (yards) from the border, it added.
The protesters, who are allowed out during the day, said in a statement that their march was in protest against their “inhuman and unlimited” detention in the Holot camp.
Holot houses some 2,300 immigrants.
The demonstrators were demanding to be able to leave Israel, and called on the UN refugee agency and the international community to take charge of their cases so they can immigrate to a third country.
The Israeli authorities require illegal immigrants who have been in Israel for more than five years to live in Holot.
One demonstrator said the authorities present it as an “open facility”, but it was “actually a prison”.
Under legislation passed in December 2013, authorities can detain illegal immigrants for up to a year without trial.
In February, Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel had started flying illegal immigrants to Uganda with the authorisation of that country’s authorities.
The Israeli population and immigration office said that in late 2013 there were 53,646 African immigrants in Israel, 35,987 of whom were Eritrean, 13,249 Sudanese and the remainder from other countries.
Israel’s construction of an electric fence along its border with Egypt has reduced the number of immigrants arriving illegally through the Sinai Peninsula to almost none.
Thousands of African immigrants rallied last year against the authorities’ refusal to grant them refugee status.