Holocaust survivor slams Israel’s jailing of migrant children

Marcel Stahl says footage of young kids behind bars with their mothers, who Israel is trying to deport, took him back to the days of the Nazis

Children of an African migrant from Nigeria who have been jailed with their mother in Ramle's Givon Prison as Israel tries to deport her. (Channel 10 screen capture)
Children of an African migrant from Nigeria who have been jailed with their mother in Ramle's Givon Prison as Israel tries to deport her. (Channel 10 screen capture)

A Holocaust survivor spoke out Friday expressing his outrage over the jailing of six young children of African migrants whose mothers are awaiting deportation.

“It takes me back 75 years to when the Nazis took my parents and the rest of my family to the Sobibor extermination camp and I was forced to hide with my little brother in a dark, damp cellar in a small town,” Marcel Stahl told Channel 10.

“The footage shocked me very much and I am willing to give up freedom and go to jail along with the family in order to give them backing,” said the 79-year-old immigrant from Amsterdam, who served in three wars on behalf of Israel.

The comments followed a Thursday report in the Maariv newspaper, which published photos and videos of six children, aged 2 to 7, who are currently incarcerated with their mothers at the Givon Prison near Ramle.

Marcel Stahl. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Marcy, a Nigerian mother who arrived in Israel in 2010, said that she and her four children had been at Givon for over three weeks.

“Nearly a month has passed, but the children aren’t getting used to it,” she told Maariv in tears. “The opposite. It’s becoming harder for them. Every time they play too energetically and go wild, the prison guards tell them: ‘If you make noise, we’ll lock you in your room.’”

“It’s not nice, they aren’t free, they know this isn’t home. They ask me all the time when we’re going home and I tell them ‘very soon,’” Marcy said.

Marcy said that she chose jail over deportation back to Nigeria because she hopes her eldest son can get medical treatment in Israel for his heart condition that he could not receive in Africa.

The children at Givon are allowed to play in the prison yard, but limited space and few toys often leave the children bored and restless.

Prison staff told the paper they have not undergone specialized training to oversee jailed mothers with small children, but said they were doing what they could to ease their experience.

Children of an African migrant from Nigeria who have been jailed with her mother in Ramle as Israel tries to deport her. (Screen capture/Channel 10)

A number of female staff members have donated toys, candy and books to the prison for the children.

The Population and Immigration Authority declined to respond on the matter of children incarcerated at Givon, but said that Marcy had been battling deportation for many years.

“Every court has held that she must leave the country,” the Authority said in a statement. “The aforementioned woman has been [ignoring the law] for a long time and has not left. We are unable to reach a different decision from the court.”

Meretz MK Michal Rozin blasted the incarceration of the young children in a Friday statement. “It is inconceivable that in Israel they are imprisoning children and toddlers in order to use them as a mechanism to pressure their parents facing expulsion.”

Rozin said she had reached out to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri regarding her concern over the issue, but has yet to receive a response. She added that the case “points more than anything to the government’s numbness regarding human rights.”

The report comes as the Trump administration continues to face scrutiny over the separation of thousands of immigrant children from parents who crossed the US-Mexico border illegally.

As a result of Trump’s immigration crackdown, some 3,000 children were separated from their families and, according to widely broadcast pictures, held in chain-link enclosures.

Faced with a barrage of criticism, Trump signed an executive order to halt the family separation practice, but made no specific provisions for those already split apart.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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