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World Refugee Day 2006: Who is Really Protection

World Refugee Day 2006- Who Really Receives Protection?

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel wishes to point the spotlight on the condition of refugees in Israel who do not receive protection and basic social rights. The number of Israeli citizens who received refuge and protection abroad over 2005 is greater than the number of refugees who receive protection inside the State of Israel.

In the last year hundreds of thousand of refugees fled the horrible massacre in Darfur, Sudan. Mostly they fled to African countries, and only several dozen came to request protection and refuge in Israel. In spite of the terrible war they fled from, the state treats them as a “security threat” and not as people requiring protection. Most of them are in detention for many months, although they committed no wrong doings- the detention requires no judicial review, they do not have the opportunity to access human rights organizations and do not receive proper medical treatment, including mental health treatment.

Entire families have been separated- the men have been imprisoned while women and children were placed in alternatives to detention throughout the country- without the accompaniment of a social worker, without assistance and without medical insurance. A refugee in the advanced stages of pregnancy has not yet conducted basic examinations and does not know where she will give birth. The children of the refugees reside in Israel while their fathers are imprisoned; they lack eligibility to medical services and there is no solution for them for the next school year. Two young Sudanese were imprisoned for weeks in Maasiyahu Prison and went on a hunger strike so that an alternative solution would be found for them- one of them had his hand broken by the guards who “handled” him. A refugee with a severe asthma attack was denied access to a hospital and his life was placed in danger.

Additionally, hundreds of refugee reside in Israel with a letter of protection from the UNHCR, but they do not even have basic social rights. They suffer from racism and xenophobia, degrading treatment from the establishment, police violence and endless fear.

Seventy two asylum seekers from Ethiopia were denied asylum by the UN and are now imprisoned for over a year, even though their release, even under restrictive conditions, might aid their immigration to another country. About 60 refugees from Sierra Leone who reside in Israel with documentation- due to the ongoing vicious civil war in their country- were told to leave Israel at the beginning of this year. Their children have been raised in Israel and are now supposed to move to one of the most dangerous and under developed countries in the world.

Absurdly, UNHCR statistics show that the number of Israeli citizens who receive refuge and protection abroad is greater than the number of refugees who receive protection inside the State of Israel- Israel exports refugees but refuses to absorb those needing protection.

As Israeli citizens, we must not remain apathetic to the plights of the refugees amongst us. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon the Israeli government to absorb the refugees who reside in the country, to arrange for their social rights and to grant them full protection and proper medical treatment. Israel is obligated, for reasons of humanity, morality and history to aid those whose lives are in danger and who are being persecuted for their religion, political views, skin color or any other racist motive. A “democratic state” is not just a figure of speech used to clear our collective conscience, but rather a choice with moral and human obligations. Therefore, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon the general public to join us and demand that the public representatives grant the refugees and asylum seekers the same level of respect, protection and sensitivity which the state demands that others around the world treat its own citizens.

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