Eritrean mothers: Our children are being treated as unwanted guests

Group of asylum seeking Eritrean women petition health minister, welfare minister for health, social services for children.

Volunteer with Eritrean toddler at community center 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Volunteer with Eritrean toddler at community center 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A group of 16 asylum-seeking Eritrean women wrote a letter to the health and welfare ministers Tuesday seeking help for their children, who are denied some health and social services.
“We cannot provide our children with basic necessities that mothers want and need to provide for their children,” the letter, addressed to Health Minister Yael German and Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, said. “We do not have work permits – and therefore cannot legally and properly [find employment] – and earn starvation wages. We find it difficult to pay for health insurance for our children, not to mention afternoon programs or school supplies.”
The single mothers, some of whom survived torture camps in Sinai to reach Israel, added that while they are unable to help their children, they also do not receive any assistance from welfare and social services.
The letter, written just a day before Universal Children’s Day, which will be marked on Wednesday, continued: “Our children, who now live in Israel, are not equal to other children.
Their well-being and health are not as important as other children’s.
They are being treated as unwanted guests, and are being punished for a reality that they did not create.
“We are here alone. We had to flee Eritrea, leaving our parents and siblings behind, and found ourselves lacking a voice in this country.”
One of the women, Akbart Abraham, who has lived in Tel Aviv for four years and works as a cleaning lady, said that the money she earns is often not enough to buy food for her two young daughters.
“I feel that every day is a war for me,” she said. “My eldest daughter, who is 3 years old, has asthma. If I don’t pay for her health insurance, that could be dangerous.”
Another mother, Eden Younis, explained that writing a letter to the Israeli government was a very difficult task.
“I want to say thank you to Israel for not expelling us and saving our lives, but our children’s lives here are not easy,” she said. “Our children are not worth less than other children, please help them get at least health and welfare services.”