International Red Cross Halves Number of Visits Allowed to Palestinian Prisoners

Families can now visit incarcerated relatives once a month, instead of twice, as international organization cuts its costs.

Palestinian prisoners at Israel's Megiddo Prison.
Itzik Ben-Malki

The families of Palestinian prisoners are up in arms over a decision late last month by the International Red Cross to reduce the frequency of visits they can make to their relatives doing time in Israeli prisons.

Until now, the organization arranged two visits a month for each prisoner, but recently decided family visits for most prisoners would be cut to once a month. Only female prisoners and minors will continue to receive family visits twice a month.

On Tuesday the Palestinian Prisoners Club, other prisoner advocacy groups and representatives of the families turned to the Red Cross and demanded that the organization rescind its decision. They said it was a harsh decision that was not coordinated with any Palestinian Authority official who deals with prisoner affairs.

This week there have been protests held in front of Red Cross offices in several Palestinian cities, including Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah. Families say that the protests will continue until the decision is revoked.

Palestinian Prisoners Club director Qadura Fares told Haaretz that reducing the visits comes on top of difficulties posed by the Israeli authorities and will increase the families’ suffering.

The Red Cross said in response that it has been arranging family visits for Palestinian prisoners since 1968, and has no plans to abandon this arrangement. However, after a recent reassessment it was decided to limit the second visit to women and minors, saying that over the years it has emerged that there isn’t a great demand for a second visit, and arranging second visits involves expenses that cannot be justified at this time. To reduce costs, it was decided to reduce the number of monthly visits.