Israel frees 1,200 African migrants, bans them from Tel Aviv and Eilat

African migrants depart the Holot Detention Center in Israel's Negev desert on August 25, 2015.

Story highlights

  • Israel frees 1,200 migrants from detention but bans them from Tel Aviv and Eilat
  • Migrants who lived previously in those two cities don't know where to go
  • Roughly 45,000 African migrants live in Israel, according to one advocacy group

Jerusalem (CNN)Israel has freed nearly 1,200 African migrants from a desert detention center after a high court ruling paved the way for their release, according to Israeli Prison Authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman.

But their release comes with restrictions. Authorities have told the migrants, who are mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, that they are not allowed to settle in Tel Aviv or Eilat -- the cities with the two largest migrant communities in Israel.
    About 600 migrants were released Tuesday and another 600 on Wednesday after Israel's High Court ruled that the government cannot hold migrants for more than 12 months.
    Since Tuesday migrants have been carrying their bags out of the remote Holot detention center in southern Israel and boarding buses for different parts of the country -- many of them wondering where to go next.
    "I spent 18 months in Holot, and I have nowhere to go now," Fedal Eltaher, a refugee from the Darfur region of Sudan, told Israel's Channel 2 on Tuesday. "A year-and-a-half ago I lived in Eilat, and now I am forbidden to go there. I have no clue where to go from here."
    Some 45,000 African migrants are currently living in Israel, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israeli advocacy group devoted to protecting the rights of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.
    More than 90% are from Eritrea or Sudan and have crossed into Israel through Sinai, the group says. Israel has erected a barrier along the Sinai border which has largely stemmed the flow of migrants entering the country.
    Approximately 500 African migrants remain in Holot, the Israeli prison spokeswoman said. For those released from the detention center, an uncertain future awaits.
    "I lived and worked in Tel Aviv beforehand. I have no friends and family anywhere else," Adam, a Sudanese refugee, told Channel 2.
    "I leave here with nothing. This does not solve the problem."