Ministry wants in-house medical care for illegals held at airport
Immigration and Population Authority says on-site medical services now being sought rather than requiring outside medical care.
The Immigration and Population Authority of the Interior Ministry issued a formal request for information from potential health service providers at the detention facility for illegal immigrants at Ben-Gurion International Airport last month. The step only came, however, about six months after operation began at the facility, where foreigners here illegally, including children, are held.
The authority said this is not an indication that medical services have not been available up to now, but only that on-site medical services at the facility are now being sought rather than requiring outside medical care.
"The major innovation, if this was not sufficiently clear, is that the medical services will be available and accessible at the facility itself and not outside of it," the authority said in a statement.
The authority said the services would include determining whether the deportees are fit to be held at the facility as well as the detainees' need for immediate medical attention.
"The services will be required seven days a week, 24 hours a day," it added.
Up to now, detainees at the facility did not receive a medical exam before intake, but only as the need arose after already being held.
On average over the course of a month, 270 prisoners pass through the facility, 50 at a time, the authority said, adding that the bidding process for the provision of medical services will be completed in the near future.
In contrast to airport detention center operated by the immigration authority, general Israeli prisons are governed by publicly available regulations regarding the provision of medical services.
Procedures require, for example, that a prisoner who has a fever of over 38 degrees Celsius or who is experiencing stomach pain or unexplained weakness is entitled to a medical exam and that initial medical care always be available at the prison.
By contrast, the airport detention facility for deportees currently only has more limited medical first aid available. When necessary, the airport detainees are taken to the closest hospital. In the past, when asked to disclose regulations governing the airport detention site, the immigration authority said: "[It is] in accordance with clear internal procedures relating to every detail, from food and lodging to hours of operation and approval for visits and including medical care...."
Oded Feller, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the request for information the authority issued in advance of a bidding procedure is an indication that the authority is not properly set up to provide proper medical care to airport detainees.
Niv Michaeli of Physicians for Human Rights said the prison service has a standing policy allowing prisoners to bring in outside physicians but all of his organization's requests to send a doctor to the airport detention facility have been turned down.
The immigration authority said the issuance of the formal request for information from potential bidders is not an indication that detainees are currently not receiving medical treatment. Up to now, medical treatment has been provided by the Israel Airports Authority or area hospitals, the authority said.