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Ministry of Interior Ignores Needs of Asylum-Seekers with Disabilities

The pressure exerted on asylum-seekers in Israel is multifaceted and includes bureaucratic hurdles and abuse by the Ministry of Interior, which make the lives of asylum-seekers outside of detention in Israel very difficult. Haile (not her real name) and her partner’s story is one example of the Ministry of Interior’s prevailing indifference to the suffering of asylum-seekers.

Two years ago, the couple had a baby girl. During the birth, Haile received epidural anesthesia that left her partially paralyzed. Since she can barely move and cannot afford to buy a wheelchair, Haile is bedridden most of the day.

Like all asylum-seekers in Israel who are not in detention, Haile and her partner are obligated to renew their stay permit every two months. Since reaching the Ministry of Interior offices involves travelling and standing in line for hours, we at the Hotline tried to get Haile an exemption from having to renew the visa in person. We asked that the Ministry of Interior allow Haile’s husband to renew her visa and her behalf. Despite many appeals to the Ministry of Interior, they refused to grant her that exemption and only allowed her to receive her visa without standing in line. The Ministry of Interior office in which asylum-seekers can renew their visa, however, is not accessible for people with disabilities. The office has stairs and is cannot be accessed in any other way. In our appeals to the Ministry of Interior we asked them to change their regulations to provide a solution for all asylum-seekers with disabilities who struggle to reach the Ministry of Interior to renew their visa every two months. Our explanations and further appeals were ignored by the Ministry of Interior.

With great effort, Haile managed to reach the Ministry of Interior, only to hear that she must leave and come back another time and this time bring a pay-slip, a document without which the Ministry of Interior has been refusing to renew visas. The Ministry of Interior can ask asylum-seekers to provide documents, but it must not condition the renewal of visas on the provision of documents when the people attempting to renew the visa, Eritreans and Sudanese, are covered by a non-removal policy. Even asylum-seekers who work sometimes struggle to get a pay-slip out of their employer. Haile’s attempt to explain that she does not work as she is disabled and therefore does not have a pay-slip were ignored.

The Hotline once again addressed the Ministry of Interior and asked that the Ministry renew Haile’s visa without demanding a pay-slip or a second arduous trip to the Ministry of Interior. Those appeals were ignored and Haile once again was forced to return to the Ministry of Interior. This time, however, the clerks at the Ministry acquiesced and renewed Haile’s visa without requiring a pay-slip.

Haile was forced to travel to the Ministry of Interior twice, using public transportation as asylum-seekers are not allowed to drive in Israel, while suffering great pain. The Ministry of Interior could have saved her the agony and mental distress she suffered due to concerns about her legal status. The Ministry also avoided replying to our request that they adjust their regulations to accommodate asylum-seekers with disabilities, and only commented on Haile’s individual case. The Ministry of Interior acknowledged that Haile should enter without standing in line for hours, indicating that they realize that persons with disabilities require different treatment – however they are still unwilling to change their regulations.

We hope that in two months, when Haile is forced to go through this ordeal again, the Ministry of Interior will take her condition into consideration.