African migrants - Daniel Bar-On - 10.6.2012
African migrants marching to the UN headquarters in Tel Aviv in protest of violence against asylum seekers from South Sudan and Eritrea, June 10, 2012. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The Immigration and Population Authority has arrested three migrants from South Sudan who are seriously ill and are waiting for their asylum applications to be considered on humanitarian grounds. The three - one of whom has AIDS, another has epilepsy and the third has chronic arthritis and liver dysfunction - were arrested three days ago.

Two of the three have submitted official requests to stop their deportation, in keeping with the procedures of the Immigration and Population Authority. According to those procedures, steps are not to be taken to deport people whose applications are under review. The third person was arrested after he was sent to bring a certain medical form attesting to his condition. His application was submitted for him by the United Nations Refugee Commission.

Because the state has lifted the group protection from deportation it had accorded citizens of South Sudan in Israel, deeming it safe for them to return home, the three are asking that they be allowed to remain in Israel on medical grounds. The three say their fate is sealed if they return to their home country, considering the poor medical care available there.

The Physicians Without Borders NGO has asked the tribunal that oversees incarceration to release the three immediately and that deportation proceedings be halted. In the case of one of the asylum-seekers, the group wrote that it was his right to remain in the country in light of his medical condition. Regarding another of the three men, the group wrote: "From information conveyed to Physicians Without Borders by a representative of the U.N. Commission of Refugees, who visited him in prison, for the first two days he received no medical treatment and the medications he had were taken from him."

The group warned that "such conduct could harm the patient, especially in light of the fact that the Immigration and Population Authority is aware of his medical situation and the medications he needs were readily available."

Physicians Without Borders said it decried the man's incarceration "considering that he acted according to the Interior Ministry's own procedures in order to exercise his rights vis-a-vis the authorities. The place of such a person is not in custody, both because of his medical condition and mainly because of the fact that he is in the process of exercising his rights."

Shahar Shoham, head of the Migrants and Refugees Department of Physicians for Human Rights, said: "We are seeing a significant worsening of the attitude toward sick people who are seeking to prevent their deportation on medical grounds. What we had seen until recently is that people who submitted applications were not arrested."

However, Shoham said, despite the fact that procedure says people must not be deported while their cases are under review, and the requests of all three individuals in question are under review, they have been arrested "just to make their lives miserable and to pressure them to sign a waiver that they are leaving of their own free will."

Shoham said the medical conditions of all three are well-documented.

The Immigration and Population Authority said in response: "The applications of the three are under review even while they are being held, and there is no reason not to do so. There is medical treatment [for those] in custody. They will not be deported until there is a response to their application."