Tel Aviv-Yafo steps up efforts to protect migrant workers, refugees during COVID-19

* Wide range of assistance initiatives launched to keep community safe *


Photos are courtesy of Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality:

Tel Aviv-Yafo, July 14 - Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality is continuing to increase its efforts to protect the city's community of migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

As COVID-19 continues to impact nations and cities around the globe, the municipality has tailored its response to the particular needs of Tel Aviv's most diverse and vulnerable community, largely residing in the south of the city.

Supported by over 120 local volunteers, the municipal response has included the establishment of a dedicated coronavirus testing site on municipal property, door-to-door health outreach campaigns in multiple languages, distribution of thousands of food parcels and vouchers, and close cooperation with prominent religious and communal leaders.


The efforts have been led by Mesila, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality's Aid and Information Center for Migrant Workers and Refugees, established in 1999 in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel's educational and cultural authorities.


Key initiatives carried out by the municipality to assist the city's approximately 40,000 asylum seekers and migrant workers include:

  • Establishment of a dedicated coronavirus testing site on municipal property in the Neve Sha'anan neighborhood, in collaboration with national emergency service Magen David Adom and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov).

  • Approximately 1,000 telephone calls and meetings with families to offer assistance and check upon their welfare.

  • Social media posts and door-to-door distribution of tens of thousands of flyers and notices to homes and churches to raise coronavirus awareness and provide the latest government guidelines in multiple languages (including Tigrinya, Arabic, Russian and English).

  • Multilingual call center to offer immediate and accessible assistance to residents, which has answered approximately 3,500 urgent requests since the start of the outbreak.

  • Distribution of thousands of grocery vouchers, food parcels, frozen food items, games for children, diapers, and tablet computers.

  • The establishment of a coronavirus control center to assist with food and access to hotel isolation, managed by representatives from the municipality, the Ministry of Health and Home Front Command. Epidemiological investigations for migrant workers and refugees are assisted by a Tigrinya-speaking representative of Eritrean origin.


To encourage wide-scale testing, the municipality has promised residents that no enforcement proceedings will be carried out against any individual seeking a coronavirus test, irrelevant of their legal status.

Miri Barbero-Elkayam, Director of Mesila: "The work of the municipality is invaluable on a daily basis, and certainly at times of crisis like this when the needs are enormous and many asylum seekers find themselves out of work. We have been working around the clock for approximately four months, with a huge workload. Providing assistance for current issues and future prevention programs are certainly critical, not only for the local community itself but for all residents of the area."


The municipality has been assisted in its efforts by the Mayor’s Emergency Relief Fund, established by the Tel Aviv Foundation.


The Relief Fund allows for private philanthropists from Israel and around the world to show their social responsibility by contributing to the Municipality’s efforts in supporting individuals and communities most severely affected by the pandemic and its economic and social implications.


The municipality is committed to matching each donation dollar-to-dollar. To date, the Tel Aviv Foundation has raised over NIS 10 million ($2.89m.) towards these efforts, a majority of which have been raised from Israeli partners and donors.


The emergency initiatives listed above are in addition to the municipality's routine assistance offered by 40 female employees and social workers to migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers.


These include permanent services for children at risk or with special needs, public health, daycare centers and after-school activities, fostering community relations and operating the National Center For Survivors of Human Trafficking and Slavery.


An in-depth report on Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality's city-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic, including relief for local businesses and expansion of social services, can be found here:


Photos are courtesy of Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality:





Services provided by Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality to migrant workers and refugees in routine and emergency times:



Every child over the age of three has the right to free enrollment in the municipal education system.



Children aged 0-5 are entitled to treatment in the family health stations (mother and child care).  In addition, health insurance for children can be purchased through the Meuhedet Health Services (Kupat Holim) and adults can purchase private health insurance policies or receive health insurance services through their employers (if they have a legal, certified work permit).


Mesila and other city agencies assist with welfare issues including child care, nutrition, special needs, vocational assistance, domestic violence, substance abuse, and other issues.


More information about Mesila:

Mesila was founded in order to provide an appropriate and comprehensive response to the rights and needs of the tens of thousands of legal and illegal migrant workers and refugees living in and around the city.

Mesila’s main objective is to grant social, educational and medical assistance to the city’s refugees and migrant workers.


More information about the Tel Aviv Foundation:

Chaired by the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, the Tel Aviv Foundation focuses on raising the quality of life of each Tel Avivian through partnerships that enhance our city’s values of openness, innovation, inclusion and opportunity.

Founded in 1977, the Foundation has established more than 600 projects and raised over $500 million worldwide, thereby touching the lives of all Tel Avivians.

All funds raised are designated for specific projects and boosted by the City’s unique matching funds program. This dollar-for-dollar partnership ensures accountability, promotes cooperation between donor and recipient, and strengthens the bond between Israel and the Diaspora.

To support the Mayor’s Emergency relief fund, go to or contact

Notice in Tigrinya and English.jpeg

media contact
Eytan Halon

Head of International Press

Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality