Welfare and Health

Every day at ASSAF we are witness to the abusive consequences of a government policy that, over many years, has denied asylum seekers recognition, support and a health and social safety net. Naturally, the first to be affected by this policy are the most vulnerable: single mothers, women and families dealing with domestic abuse, families at risk, survivors of torture and human trafficking, people who engage in survival sex, people with physical disabilities, the chronically ill and the mentally handicapped.

As part of our psychosocial projects, we run a program that aims to help participants cope with the reality of life in Israel, reduce distress, and strengthen their resilience and coping skills. The assistance is tailored to the complex and unique situation of asylum seeker families and individuals, respecting their culture, rights and needs. The intervention is multi-systemic, and includes a range of activities: guidance, support, individual treatment, support groups, help accessing rights, and humanitarian assistance. We also work in the public arena – in the Knesset, with government officials and local authorities, the media and in the court system, to promote welfare and health rights.

An important aspect of our work with asylum seekers who contact us, is locating the strengths within the community, increasing awareness of their needs, strengths and rights. As part of our projects we emphasize empowerment, socio-political awareness, accompanying and training community activists and assisting community organizations.

“I only think about today. How will I survive today? How will I manage today? How will I get food today? If a person cannot think about tomorrow, they are not truly alive”

B., asylum seeker from Eritrea, single mother of 4 children

Asylum Seekers in Israel during Covid-19

The COVID-19 crisis exposed the injustices and the damage that the long-standing government policies have caused and continue to cause to asylum seekers, and their effects on the general Israeli population. Following years with no status and social rights, the outbreak of the pandemic and the economic shutdown immediately worsened the state of the asylum seekers’ community to one on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.

Our report – Staring into the Abyss – Asylum Seekers in Israel During COVID-19 –  describes and summarizes the first year of COVID-19 in Israel (March 2020 until March 2021) as experienced by asylum seekers in the country; the report examines the economic, physical and mental impacts of the pandemic and the following economic crisis on asylum seekers, and the ongoing ramifications of the crisis on their lives today.


Staring into the Abyss

People with disabilities

Most asylum seekers in Israel lack access to welfare and health services. This situation particularly effects people with physical or mental disabilities.

Alongside public advocacy to promote welfare and health services for asylum seekers with disabilities, we assist them directly. This assistance is provided individually or in the framework of support groups for people with disabilities – for empowerment, psychological resilience and acquisition of tools to cope with their complex situation.

Survivors of Torture and Human Trafficking

It is estimated that about 4,000 survivors of the Sinai torture camps live in Israel today. These men and women are not eligible for health and welfare services, and are in danger of a deterioration in their difficult physical and mental conditions. These survivors are often in complex social situations, suffering from severe trauma and in need of medical care, as well as physical and mental support frameworks to help them rebuild their lives.

Alongside public activities advocating welfare and health services for asylum seekers who survived torture, we provide direct assistance to these vulnerable people. Survivors of torture and human trafficking who contact us receive access to the diverse services and responses that we offer to asylum seekers in Israel, including humanitarian assistance, assistance in exercising rights, as well as individual and group support.

Vulnerable Refugees Project

There are asylum seekers who do not belong to one of the above two projects – people with disabilities and survivors of torture. This includes women and families affected by domestic violence, single mothers, elderly asylum seekers, asylum seekers engaged in prostitution and asylum seekers from the LGBTQ community. For these people we run this project.

As part of this project, in addition to our public activities advocating welfare and health services for people in this project, we assist them directly. The assistance is provided individually or in support groups for people with disabilities – for empowerment, strengthening psychological resilience and acquiring tools to deal with their complex situation.

Further Reading

The impact of trauma, flight and protracted displacement on the mental health of Eritrean refugees living in Israel 2022

An exploratory study of coping strategies