Following three strokes that left M., 59, impaired and unable to obtain adequate medical treatment because of his asylum seeker status in Israel, he decided he had no choice but to return to Sudan - at least he'll die in his homeland, he says. .
He has no illusions about receiving adequate medical attention there either. M.’s third stroke happened in April. By now, he can barely walk, eat, drink or get dressed independently. He experiences dizziness and falls, and was hospitalized for this at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, which recommended neurological rehabilitation. But as an asylum seeker, he isn’t entitled to medical care, and last week he was released from the hospital against his doctors’ recommendation. M.’s relatives were told that if he’d been Israeli, he would not have been released.
Unable to work, M. cannot pay for private care. Meanwhile he lives with his nephew, whose wife is in advanced pregnancy. Both have two jobs each, outside the home, and cannot provide the care M. needs.
So M. is returning to Sudan, and was given a flight ticket by the Interior Ministry’s “Voluntary departure” program. He leaves this weekend.
“I am in pain and would want to stay in hospital, but I can’t pay for it,” he said. “I decided to return to Sudan even though it’s dangerous there. I have no hope any more of receiving treatment in Israel. At least I will be in my own home.”
His nephew said that caring for M. is like caring for a baby but much harder, and they’ve been doing it for five years.
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The Doctors for Human Rights organization has also been involved for years, in trying to get the Health Ministry to arrange treatment, and find him care outside the nephew’s home. The ministry answered neither the organization nor Haaretz.
However, the Health Ministry’s conduct contrasts with the recommendations submitted in late 2018 by the inter-ministerial team responsible for healthcare for asylum seekers, headed by Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director-general of the Population and Emigration Authority. The recommendations, which have yet to be approved by the ministers, would allocate 10 million shekels a year for asylum seekers' healthcare.
During the last two years, the Health Ministry has said time and again that the correct solution for asylum is for them to pay a monthly insurance premium, in exchange for which the community would receive an array of services. In July 2017 this plan was presented to and approved by the Health Ministry director-general. In May 2018, a Health Ministry representative told the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee that the Health Ministry still advocates this insurance-based solution, but the plan isn’t being pushed forward – even though the state comptroller said back in 2014 that the limited healthcare options available to asylum seekers violate the basic law regarding human dignity and freedom, as well as the international treaty on economic, social and cultural rights.
There are presently about 33,000 asylum seekers in Israel from Eritrea and Sudan. Israel acknowledges that their lives would be in danger if they went home, and issues them temporary residential permits. But those permits do not confer social benefits, and the national healthcare law doesn’t apply to them. To get medical care, they have to wait for their condition to grow serious enough to warrant emergency care. But once their condition is stabilized, they are released from hospital without follow-up treatment – as happened to M. Bereft of subsequent medical attention and even drugs, they are at high risk of recurrence and deterioration.
Asylum seekers don’t have enough medical solutions, says the Doctors for Human Rights organization. Asylum seekers who work should get healthcare insurance through the private healthcare insurers, but in practice many employers don’t arrange health insurance for their workers at all, the organization told the state comptroller. Even when they are given insurance, they don’t cover pre-existing conditions, and there is no mental health or rehabilitation coverage. Also, if the worker loses the ability to work, the insurers may terminate the policy on the spot – just when the worker needs it the most, the organization adds.
The Health Ministry runs an emergency clinic in Tel Aviv, called Terem, for urgent cases. The ministry commented that the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team on social services for asylum seekers are being discussed in court, including the possibilities for implementing the recommendations of the Mor Yosef committee, subject to the acquiescence of the relevant ministers. On this, the Doctors for Human Rights rebutted that the petition the ministry mentions is about opening new welfare offices, and the implementation of the Mor Yosef committee recommendations has nothing to do with the petition.