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Israel’s only mental health clinic for African asylum-seekers faces closure

Israel’s only clinic to provide mental health services for African asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants is expected to face closure in June, leaving thousands suffering from trauma, emotional disorders, and mental health issue without access to care, Haaretz reported on Thursday.

Financed by the Health Ministry, Jaffa’s Gesher Clinic was informed that due to budgetary shortages it’s delivery of support will cease to function and that, worse still, there are no future plans to renew its activities.

Gesher’s patients’ residency status does not permit them access to government health services and upon the centers shut down, they will lose their ability to receive mental health care.

“We don’t have health insurance, we don’t have access to a private clinic and we can’t go to the hospital, what do we do?” Sudanese asylum-seeker Taj Harom told i24NEWS. “The difficult policy here in Israel, the journeys we have come on and the terrible news we receive from home causes depression.”

The clinic opened in 2014 and has around 300 patients providing treatment a range of mental health problems.

According to Haaretz, 70 percent of Gesher’s patients are young men from Eritrea who, upon fleeing an oppressive dictatorship and forced military conscription, undertook the treacherous journey to Israel crossing Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. African asylum seekers who entered Israel did so before 2013, when a fence at the border with Egypt made the journey impossible.

Open for only nine hours a week, the underfunded and understaffed clinic has a waiting list of 200 people who have to wait up to 10 months to be seen, according to Haaretz. More than a third of those on the list include people who had been forcibly hospitalized, who are suicidal or who otherwise pose a risk to themselves and others.

The clinic’s fate has been uncertain for several months. Dr. Ido Luri, the clinic director resigned at the start of the year and a replacement is yet to be appointed, and the payment of employees salaries have also been delayed.

 

This article first appeared on i24 and can be viewed here.

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