One Way Ticket Out of Holot Detention Center

The case of a Sudanese asylum seeker held in migrant detention center until he became ill shows the state's callousness toward those in need.

Haaretz Editorial
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Asylum seeker arrives at Holot detention center in January 2014.
Asylum seeker arrives at Holot detention center in January 2014. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Haaretz Editorial

It appears that the Population and Immigration Authority has forgotten that asylum seekers in Israel are human beings. Otherwise it is difficult to explain the way the authority dealt with Abed al-Karim.

As reported in Haaretz, al-Karim, a 37-year-old Sudanese citizen who was incarcerated in the Holot detention center two months ago, went to the facility’s clinic about a month ago to complain about pain in his throat and difficulty speaking. He was not examined by a doctor because under the agreement between the state and Bikurofe, the company operating the clinic, no doctor is on duty at Holot from Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning. The paramedic who received him consulted with the doctor on call by phone and finally gave him pills and sent him away. He did the same two days later when al-Karim returned to the clinic with no improvement in his condition.

Only on Sunday, after getting an injection that didn’t help him, was he referred to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva. Al-Karim had to go to the hospital by bus, on his own. There, in a CT test, it transpired he had suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in the neurology ward.

The chain of events afterward shows that the delay in diagnosing and administering suitable medical care was only the preview for the Population and Immigration Authority’s washing its hands of al-Karim altogether.

The doctors who treated him at Soroka stressed that after his discharge from hospital he must undergo a medical and rehabilitative process, which would include both medication and sessions with a speech therapist in order to regain his speech. Bikurofe told the Population and Immigration Authority and the Health Ministry it could provide al-Karim with the required medication and see to his rehabilitation.

But despite this, the hospital was told that his incarceration order in Holot had been revoked and he could not return to the detention center. Since then, a month ago, al-Karim has remained in hospital.

The Population and Immigration Authority usually does everything it can to hunt down asylum seekers and lock them up. Now it appears that when one of the prisoners suffers from a serious medical problem, the authority shirks its responsibility for him under the guise of a “humanitarian gesture.” It also transpires that Holot is not set up to deal with inmates who suffer from serious medical problems.

This facility must be closed down. It was established on the basis of a bad law that was struck down by the High Court of Justice. An amendment to that law is currently being appealed. Until the court delivers its judgment on this issue, the Population and Immigration Authority and the Health Ministry, which is responsible for the clinic in Holot, must give al-Karim the medical treatment he requires. The state cannot just abandon asylum seekers in need.

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