Exploring alternatives to detention for torture survivors in Israel

There are an estimated 3,000 asylum seekers currently in Israel who have experienced torture in the Sinai prior to entering the country.

Research from IDC member Hotline for Refugee and Migrants has identified both the patterns and the  impact of this torture on the lives of asylum seekers and their families from Eritrea and Sudan.

This detrimental impact on physical and psychological wellbeing has been compounded by the increased use of immigration detention for many of these asylum seekers, further traumatizing an already vulnerable population in need of urgent care and rehabilitation.

Asylum-seeker adults in Israel are jailed under the Anti-Infiltration Law that allows the state to jail, without trial “infiltrators” who’ve crossed the border for three months in Saharonim prison and can then be transferred to the Holot detention facility for up to one year. While detainees may leave the facility during the day, they may not work and must sleep in the facility located near the border of Egypt.

IDC Members, Hotline for Refugee Migrant Rights , have released a report. “Reappears” details new testimonies that show that the Bedouin smugglers are still active in the Sinai.

This is how Majed (not his real name) described it:

“We received three cups of water per day – morning, lunch and evening. We ate a cup of rice that was soaked in water once a day. We lived in an underground basement so the soldiers don’t discover us…”

Since 2010 NGOs in Israel, including Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, have worked to document, identify and refer cases in need of critical care, with few local rehabilitation options available. The increased use of Holot to encourage the return of asylum seeker has further challenged this work.

In June this year, the IDC Director, Grant Mitchell, visited Israel to build on this work, presenting to UNHCR and NGOs on strategies and techniques when working with torture survivors.

IDC Director Grant Mitchell presenting to the Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem, June 2017

Building on the IDC’s global work to support national level alternative to detention pilots for vulnerable populations, the IDC presented with UNHCR to government officials on a range of international models being used to support torture survivors in the community. This includes the new IDC and UNHCR joint Vulnerability Screening Tool and Foundation House’s Integrated Recovery Model. Both models assist to early identify, refer and provide rehabilitation to asylum seekers and torture survivors.

 

There was receptivity to explore rehabilitation options for this group with follow up being explored building on existing psychiatric and psychological counselling services for non-refugee trauma survivors. The IDC hopes to return to later in the year to provide further training and technical support.