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A 3-year-old autistic girl from Bulgaria was held for three days in Ben-Gurion International Airport's detention center, along with her mother and 60-year-old grandfather.

The family was released Sunday evening, after NIS 40,000 was deposited on their behalf as a guarantee they would leave Israel within 20 days.

The three came to visit the family's grandmother, who is legally employed here as a caregiver, and had managed to save enough money to buy them plane tickets. They received tourist visas from the Israeli Embassy in Bulgaria, and said they were never given any reason why they would not be allowed to visit the grandmother.

But when asked at the airport the purpose of their visit, and after the computerized records showed the grandmother was a legal foreign worker, the family was taken to the facility for those denied entry - and seats were arranged for them on a return flight to Bulgaria.

In the meantime the grandmother enlisted a lawyer, Shelly Dvir, the head of the Judge Haim Cohen Center, which provides free legal aid to weaker populations.

Dvir appealed urgently to the Interior Ministry, emphasizing that the girl was autistic and proposed giving a guarantee that the family would leave withing three weeks. After the NIS 40,000 was deposited, the family was allowed to leave the airport.

The ministry said they did not know the girl was autistic, and only learned this from Dvir.

"Regulations state a worker on a work visa may not invite family members, for any reason," the ministry added. This is intended to prevent workers from establishing families here and demanding resident status for their children.