Israel Secretly Bans Citizens of Ebola-stricken West Africa From Visiting Country

In extremely irregular move, Foreign Ministry sends classified telegram instructing Israeli missions not to issue visas for citizens of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea; missions warned to keep instructions secret.

Barak Ravid
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Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in the Waterloo district of Freetown, October 21, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Barak Ravid

The Foreign Ministry relayed classified instructions on Thursday to all Israel's missions worldwide not to issue entry visas to citizens of three Ebola-stricken African countries.

A source in the Foreign Ministry said that the classified telegram was sent by the head of the consular department, Igal Sarfaty, who instructed the missions not to issue visas to citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The instructions also said to avoid giving visas to foreign nationals who recently visited these three countries, where thousands infected by the Ebola virus have died. Serfaty wrote in the telegram that the instructions ought to be kept secret and not publicized.

The instructions to ban citizens from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from entering Israel are extremely irregular. Most Western governments, and among them the U.S., have so far avoided taking such a step. Canada and Australia, however, did issue a visa ban.

This is the most serious step Israel has taken in the course of its efforts to prevent Ebola carriers from entering the country. .

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held several discussions in recent weeks over the scenario of the virus spreading to Israel. In the course of the discussions Netanyahu presented Ebola as one of the three threats over Israel's border, alongside "illegal infiltrators and terror." Netanyahu noted that "the state of Israel is preparing to prevent as much as possible the entry of Ebola carriers inside its borders, as part of the efforts we make to protect the borders"

In August, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning calling on Israelis to avoid visiting Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, due to Ebola concerns. In early October it was decided to screen Israelis and tourists arriving in Israel from these three countries on the Israeli border crossings. Travelers will be questioned, their temperatures will be taken and they will be required to fill out forms with their personal information.