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Israel: 86% of asylum seekers suffer food insecurity

Foreign nationals and asylum seekers queue to register for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Israel, with the highest proportion of citizens vaccinated against Covid-19 in the world, found it took three weeks for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to start curbing new cases and hospitalizations. Photographer: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Foreign nationals and asylum seekers queue to register for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 [Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv into "genuine hunger," an official survey found, as experts said there is a "severe humanitarian crisis",  Anadolu Agency reported.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday, unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic had driven 86% of asylum seekers into "genuine hunger", which matches the descriptions of both the asylum seekers themselves and aid organisations.

The findings of the survey were shown to senior officials from the health, education, justice and social affairs ministries as well as the Tel Aviv municipality.

"In any other population group, findings like these would spark an emergency campaign by government agencies," a government official said.

READ: Jordan among first to provide Covid-19 vaccine for refugees

According to Haaretz, the Justice Ministry said it was "aware of and troubled by" the asylum seekers' situation and is "making every effort to help them."

The Health Ministry also said a professional committee was discussing possible solutions and that the government was committed to helping, "within the existing budgetary limitations."

The Tel Aviv municipality said it had launched an emergency fund and solicited donations to finance food vouchers, food packages, and would continue to try "to find solutions that could ease the foreign community's situation."

Some 40,000 people with no legal status in Israel live in Tel Aviv. Of these, around 6,500 are minors. The number of people seeking help from Mesila, an aid agency in Israel, has doubled.

Since the pandemic began, Mesila has distributed over 10,000 food vouchers and 3,750 food packages, but these are far from meeting the needs.

READ: Israeli court delays ruling on Sudanese asylum seekers

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