Gazan asylum seekers held in Arizona ICE detention center
Over the past 11 months, Gazan asylum seekers Hisham Shaban Ghalia and Mounis Hammouda have been held indefinitely in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Florence, Arizona. The detainees are in current ‘immigration enforcement limbo’ with no date set for their release or deportation.
Fleeing the poverty and violence caused by decades of Israeli blockade and illegal occupation in Gaza, Hisham and Mounis’ route to the US was deadly and arduous. The two initially left Gaza to go to Cyprus, where they stayed in refugee camps for a year. From Cyprus they were able to travel to Venezuela and made their way North through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico before being thrown into detention facilities upon arriving at the United States border.
It was reported that upon arriving at the US-Mexico border and being asked by a Homeland Security officer why he wishes to seek asylum in the US, Hisham answered: “because it is a free country and you have the right to live as a human being.”
The two travel partners represent a large demographic in undocumented, non-criminal Middle Eastern/African asylum seekers currently in detention within U.S. borders. According to ICE, as of September 5, the Department of Homeland securities has 1,387 undocumented African and Middle Easterners in detention centers indefinitely across the U.S. –a process remarkably akin to Israel’s imprisonment of African asylum seekers in Holot Detention Center.
Having rejected Hisham’s plea for asylum and issued a final order of removal, the U.S. immigration authorities are able to deport him at will. Both men, however, are at risk of further imprisonment and death if deported to Israel or Saudi Arabia.
A petition has circulated the Internet to get the ICE to free the two asylum seekers.
Gaza remains under an ongoing illegal Israeli occupation and its population is collectively punished under Israeli siege. With the continued depletion of drinkable water, the Israeli occupation’s economic and agricultural warfare, and their policy of “Incremental Genocide”, there is nowhere safe in Gaza.