Everyone is treated at the Open Clinic

PHR-IL: Refugees in Israel

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel works with more than 3,000 volunteers to enforce the right to health for everyone in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories – regardless of their official resident status.

A small side street not far from the Jaffa flea market is the unobtrusive home of the Open Clinic of the Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. Only a few years ago, the district around the flea market was run down. Today, restaurants and bars for tourists and Israelis have moved into many of the previously shabby stores and ramshackle warehouses of used furniture and junk dealers. Old houses, often previously Arab, were bought up and elaborately renovated. Jaffa's gentrification is in full swing.

The poor south of Tel Aviv, which many African refugees have also made their home, directly adjoins Jaffa. As a result the clinic is easy to reach, and for many people without official resident status this is the only place to go in the event of sickness. Of the more than 50,000 refugees in Israel, over 80% come from Eritrea and Sudan, countries which Israel has entered into commitments not to use as destinations for deportees. At the same time, people from these countries were until recently refused asylum proceedings. For the majority of those affected, this means that they may neither work nor receive appropriate assistance from the state. As a result, many work in irregular employment. This is quickly apparent if you look at the people washing dishes in restaurants and bars, taking out refuse, cleaning toilets.

These people are largely left to their own resources. Most are uninsured; their employers are not tied to any minimum wage. Refugees are also denied access to the state health service. This also applies to the estimated 7,000 people who were physically abused on the way to Israel. Unless their condition is acutely life-threatening, they also receive no medical care from state facilities.

At the Open Clinic, the staff – mostly Israeli volunteers – examine, treat and advise up to 4,000 people a year. Referrals to other institutions for more complicated therapy are part of the service, together with legal advice and psychological care. Besides refugees and asylum-seekers, the clinic also serves anyone else who is without access to the Israeli health service, such as migrant workers without legal official resident status or Palestinians in Israel with no status.

medico has been working with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-IL) for over ten years, and its support to the organisation totalled €55,165 in 2013.

Published: 19. August 2014

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