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04 June 2020 – Israel

Migrant Workers in South Tel Aviv Queue to get Tested for Covid-19, (Negev Abbas,
Migrant Workers in South Tel Aviv Queue to get Tested for Covid-19, (Negev Abbas, "Virus cases among foreign workers ring alarm bells for Israel officials,", 31 May 2020,

After deconfinement began on 27 in Israel, new Covid infections increased sharply. However, the real number of infections in the country is difficult to assess because of fears amongst workers about the consequences of presenting themselves for testing. Migrant workers and asylum seekers appear to have a much higher infection rate than the rest of the population. The government’s National Information and Knowledge Center reports that 25 percent of tested foreign workers were positive for COVID-19. However, due to the fear of losing their jobs if they are infected, many asylum-seekers do not get tested. Official estimates put the number of foreign workers in Tel Aviv alone at roughly 40,000.

In a joint press statement on 11 May, UN officials called for the release of all children detained by the Israeli authorities in prisons and detention centres. Mentioning the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the statement said that “since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in Israel, legal proceedings are on hold, almost all prison visits are cancelled, and children are denied in-person access to their families and their lawyers. This creates additional hardship, psychological suffering, and prevents the child from receiving the legal advice to which they are entitled.”

At the end of March, UN officials estimated that 194 Palestinian were detained in Israel. On 16 April, a Palestinian NGO pressed Israeli authorities to ensure the rights of detainees. The organisation, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, highlighted “overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate access to healthcare” while pointing out that Palestinian prisoner are classified separately to regular prisoners. A petition was submitted to the Israeli High Court of Justice to demand that inmates be allowed to communicate with their family. At the time of this update, the court only responded by allowing minors a 10-minute call every two weeks.

On 14 April, a coalition of NGOs issued an open letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urging the body to do more to protect “Palestinian prisoners’ right to health, particularly as many are minors, chronically ill, members of vulnerable groups, or held under administrative detention in contravention of international law.” The letter states that Israeli occupying authorities have disregarded Covid-19 guidelines in dealing with Palestinian prisoners and mentions that while the Israeli government released some 400 non-violent prisoners selected on the basis of health conditions and age, the government has not established the same release policy for Palestinian prisoners. Although some Palestinian prisoners had been freed, the government had not established any health or safety precautions to assist those infected or to protect the communities they are returning to.