Death of 4-month-old marks latest migrant day-care tragedy
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Death of 4-month-old marks latest migrant day-care tragedy

Five children have died in Tel Aviv centers catering to African population in last 1.5 months; police investigating

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Illustrative photo of a day-care facility in an apartment in the Shapira neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv, on May 14, 2012 (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a day-care facility in an apartment in the Shapira neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv, on May 14, 2012 (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A 4-month-old baby died in a Tel Aviv day-care facility catering to African migrants on Monday, in the fifth case of an infant’s death in these facilities in the past month-and-a-half.

Police said that the mother of the child, originally from Eritrea, arrived to pick up her son and noticed he was unresponsive. She took the baby to the Ichilov Hospital for treatment, but the doctors were unable to revive him. The cause of death was unclear, and the baby was set to undergo an autopsy.

Two days ago, Efrat Irlagam, an Eritrean baby at one of the facilities — dubbed “child warehouses,” due to their overcrowded and harsh conditions — died, prompting police to shut down the improvised day-care center.

Still, some 70-80 of these centers remain open in South Tel Aviv, catering to some 2,500 babies of migrants, and offering little to no supervision of the children, no toys and little food, according to Hebrew media reports. Some of the centers are said to supervise between 30-50 babies a day with two staff members.

During the afternoon hours, hundreds of older children enter the facilities, some remaining for up to 15 hours a day. The service runs to about NIS 500 a month for parents, according to some reports, and is drastically cheaper than general day-care programs.

South Tel Aviv is home to thousands of African migrants, whose legal status is the subject of a protracted legal battle between the Knesset and the High Court over legislation that would allow for the detention of the migrants in facilities in southern Israel.

According to a Haaretz report, three children died in day-care centers catering to migrants in February, and 10 others have died there in the past two years.

In February, a 5-month-old baby fell asleep and got tangled in a plastic bag. The couple that ran the day care found him an hour later and rushed him to the hospital. The baby died three days later.

The second fatality was eight months old. She was left at her day care for days, after her mother got a job outside the city. She became sick with the flu and died from complications of the disease.

A third baby died during an outbreak of meningitis. Dozens of other children from his day-care center became sick with the infectious disease as well.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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