Israel returns Syrian girl who sought asylum

Physicians for Human Rights advocates giving Syrian refugees being treated in Israeli hospitals asylum.

Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp in Jordan 370 (R) (photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp in Jordan 370 (R)
(photo credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition for asylum filed by a teenage Syrian girl seeking to prevent her return to the war-torn country, according to information obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.
The 17-year-old girl, whose name cannot be released because of the sensitivity of her case, was sent back last Thursday evening to Syria.
Tamir Blanc, one of the lawyers for the Syrian girl, told the Post on Tuesday that he could not discuss too many specifics of the case because of a confidentiality order by the court.
The court confirmed the confidentiality order and refused to produce any documents.
Blanc implied that the safety of Syrian refugees who received medical care in Israel could be negatively impacted if their identities were publicized – this danger extends to any connections they may make with Israel, regardless of the reason.
According to Blanc, since 2011, the UN Human Rights Council has declared any Syrians fleeing the country as refugees due to the extended war that has killed well over 130,000, according to many estimates.
This declaration would apply to Syrians fleeing to Israel. Blanc said that this means that each such case should be reviewed and “taken seriously” to see if they have a right as a refugee, regardless of whether the person came from a friendly state or an enemy state like Syria.
Hadas Ziv, the public outreach director for Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, who advocate for the right to equal healthcare for all, told the Post on Tuesday that the injured Syrians receive daily visits by volunteers and that at the moment there are 10 Arab-speaking volunteers who provide food and clothing to hospitalized Syrians at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. “Most important is they visit and talk and give emotional support to the refugees.”
She went on to talk of an ongoing PHR-Israel case where “a Syrian refugee was discharged when treatment ended. He is in Syria and needs [the] summary of hospitalization [from] Israel sent to him in Syria.”
Asked about the Syrian refugees’ reaction to being in Israel, Ziv said they are “very surprised to find themselves in Israel. The encounter [between Israelis and Syrians] was for me personally an eye opening experience. It is a rare event to speak to Syrians and for them to speak to Israelis.”
Ziv explained the dire situation of refugee crisis: “There is a huge catastrophe in Syria. Look at neighboring countries. They have taken a great load. Israel is hospitalizing Syrian refugees. It gives them excellent medical care but [Israel] does not pay attention. Some [Syrian refugees] do not want to return and should be given the option [and] access to [an] asylum seeking process.”
More than 130,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011. An estimated 9.5 million Syrians have been displaced, including over 600,000 living in Turkey, and Jordan is hosting nearly 600,000 of those uprooted.
According to Syrian activists on Tuesday, roughly 100 people are killed each day in Syria.
Ziv commented on Jordan saying that it had taken on a heavy burden, one which Israel should assist with.
She says that it is in Israel’s best interest to be a good neighbor and deliver top quality care.
When asked about the thorny problem of dealing with Syria, which is officially an enemy of the State of Israel, Ziv said “unfortunately we don’t have relations with Syria, but it can be minimized and not every act we do must be viewed in these lenses [Syria as enemy state].”
“It could be a danger. Yet, those whom we take into our hospitals are not prisoners. They are refugees. How does it risk our security if we assist Jordan? It shows our good will.”
She cited the Israel-Jordan peace agreement as reason to provide help to Syrians in Jordan.
Ziv said that hospitals involved should know that when they discharge someone that person can face “severe conditions and danger” in Syria.
She continued saying that medical professionals should “care not only for the time one is in your care, but also about his or her follow-up and, therefore, I think they should join PHR-Israel in its request that refugees should have options” and that their return to Syria should depend on their wishes.
Israel has treated over 200 refugees since the start of the conflict, including victims receiving vital health services at Ziv Medical Center in Safed.
Last year, the first Syrian birth took place in Israel. Mira Eli, the nurse in charge of the maternity delivery ward at Safed, described the care provided to the pregnant woman: “We gave her a hug, a shower and food. We gave her postnatal advice. She’s a very young woman who came without her husband or anyone else and it was her first delivery. Our job is to ensure that every new mother remembers her delivery as an unforgettable, positive experience, whatever her ethnic, national or religious background.”
It is not a favor but a universal human obligation, Ziv asserted. “The fact that the world is impotent in the face of such suffering in Syria does not mean that we as individuals should be... and we should start at home, advocating with our government, our hospitals and the international organizations that must assist.”
Ziv urged Israel to ask the UN to set up a “safe haven” near Israel’s border with Syria to allow for an escape route for refugees.