Inhumane conditions at airport facility for those denied entry

Extreme heat, overcrowded spaces, and long hours - these are the conditions described by employees of the Population and Immigration Authority in a harsh letter

Hadas Gil-Ad|
"Israel's border control in the year 2023 holds people in captivity, under inhumane conditions to endure the weather, the workers union at Israel's Population and Immigration Authority at the Ben Gurion Airport, wrote in a letter describing the conditions in which people who were denied entry to Israel were being kept. "This is a disregard of human dignity and freedom and a disregard of the role of the employees of the Population and Immigration Authority."
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According to the letter, there has been an increase in the number of people who were denied entry upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. "The management's inability to find proper and professional solutions is manifested in creative fixes, whether it's staying in the duty-free area for days on end, or in the employees' break rooms, and now a tent has been set up that is exposed to everything. These solutions are unacceptable in the rest of the world," the authority staff wrote.
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People sit outside airport holding facility amid heat
People sit outside airport holding facility amid heat
People sit outside an airport holding facility amid extreme heat
This is not the first time that criticism is voiced over the conditions in which those who are denied entry and those awaiting deportation, are held at Ben Gurion Airport. However, it is rare for the criticism to come from the employees themselves, those who are exposed on a daily basis to these conditions.
"It's inappropriate. We, as human beings, cannot tolerate such treatment," said an employee of the authority. "No human being should have to wait under such conditions. The facility is overcrowded, there are only 50 beds, and there is not enough space to contain everyone. The tent was supposed to be a solution, they claim it is air-conditioned, but it is so hot outside that the AC is not effective, so they sit outside, in an area that looks like a cage," the employee said.
"I have been working at the authority for 15 years, and since the COVID pandemic, the conditions at Ben Gurion Airport have worsened," he said. "Because of low wages, people don't want to come work here. Those who are held while their requests are reviewed, wait 12 hours for their interrogation because we lack proper staffing and we can't find solutions to create a more friendly waiting area for them."
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מסורבי הכניסה לישראל
מסורבי הכניסה לישראל
The tent that has been set up for those denied entry at Ben Gurion Airport
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, and the Association for Civil Rights have previously warned about the conditions faced by those who were being deported from Israel at Ben Gurion Airport. In a letter sent to the Ministry of Interior about two years ago, it was claimed that the Population and Immigration Authority was not the appropriate body to deal with the imprisonment of individuals and the care of detainees, as its employees lack the required professionalism and proper means, and the facility managers were not subjected to real oversight to ensure the protection of detainees' rights.
On this matter, the authority's employees claimed in their letter that border control employees have not received proper training regarding their authority since 2011, including training for escorting deportees. Additionally, they lack the proper equipment to handle emergencies, or panic attacks at the counters or in the tent.
"It is touching to see such a clear and moral statement from the Population and Immigration Authority's employees, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said. "For years, we have been warning about the shameful conditions at Ben Gurion Airport, which are unfit for detaining any person, and here it appears that it can get even worse: from cramped cells and poor conditions, we have reached metal cages under the scorching sun, without restrooms and without access to personal belongings. It is inconceivable for the State of Israel would hold detainees for long hours, although they have not committed any offense and are not suspected of anything."
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Ben Gurion Airport
(Photo: Shiri Hadar)
"The importance of human dignity is evident, and we take care to provide professional training at the border crossings," the Population and Immigration Authority said in their response. "During busy hours, when multiple flights land simultaneously, there might be congestion. Meanwhile, efforts are being made to improve the conditions on-site, and when a person who is denied entry is expected to board a flight in the next few hours, the preference is indeed to keep them in the spacious terminal rather than transferring them to the detention facility."
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