Palestinian families from Jerusalem self-funded and organized a trip filling three buses to visit their children in the Israeli prisons of Gilboa and Ramon on Sunday, 17 July, following the cuts in family visits implemented by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC, claiming budget cutbacks, cut family visits for imprisoned Palestinian men from twice monthly to once monthly beginning in July 2016.
Palestinian prisoners and families have widely protested this action, emphasizing that it coincides with repeated Israeli attempts to cut visits and prohibit family visits for Palestinian prisoners. Amjad Abu Assab, chair of the Jerusalem Families’ Committee, told Ma’an that the families pooled their money to share the bus fares, book buses, and arrange the visit with prison administration, despite the difficult situations expereinced by Palestinian Jerusalemites. He noted that the ICRC’s visit cuts were “shocking to the prisoners and their families, and in line with the goals of the occupation…It would be better for the [ICRC] to reduce other expenses and prioritize the two monthly visits for the prisoners and their families.”
He also noted that even this self-organized and funded trip – which faced multiple obstacles, including refusals of the prison administration to deal with the committee directly as a group, and the imposition of requirements to communicate in Hebrew to coordinate the visit – was not possible for Palestinians from the West Bank, who cannot visit their children and family members without special permits. These permits are generally only obtained through the mediation of the ICRC and take months to process.
The mother of the prisoner Tamer Saadeh said that the families and their children felt sadness and pain due to the decision of the Red Cross, saying that “We are constantly longing to visit our children. The occupation allows us to visit them twice a month and we want to increse these visits…The management of the ICRC shocked us with this sudden decision. We have tried to protest this decision.” She noted that the participants on the trip suffered through long waits and delays at checkpoints and inspections in extreme heat.
Sick prisoners in Ramle prison clinic boycotted ICRC representative visits over the cuts to family visits, while Palestinians in Gaza refused to join the ICRC’s Ramadan iftar in protest. Samidoun has written to the ICRC and protested in New York City and elsewhere against the visit cuts.
Take Action! Sign and share the change.org petition to the International Committee of the Red Cross urging them to change this decision. Palestinian prisoners and their families need support – not yet more roadblocks in the way of family life and family connections!