Human Rights

Report: Infant ‘held hostage’ in Turkish hospital because refugee parents can’t pay bill

abortion, disabilities

A hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, has reportedly refused to allow parents to see their newborn baby or take him home because the baby’s refugee family is unable to pay the hospital bill.

The Mezopotamya news agency reported that “Baby R.” was born prematurely on December 21 and was placed in an incubator at Bağcılar State Hospital. The baby has improved and no longer needs the incubator or medical services, but the hospital is allegedly refusing to let the mother see her baby. The parents, in response, asked for the baby to be released to them but the hospital is demanding they first pay 30,000 Turkish Lira — the equivalent of more than $4,100 — before it will release the baby. According to reports, hospital officials have said that “if the money is paid, the situation will be solved.”

Now the Human Rights Association (IHD) is telling the hospital to release the baby immediately. The group held a press conference with a banner stating, “Refugee baby is being held hostage at the state hospital.”

“We demanded to speak with the chief physician, who told us it was preposterous for a baby to be kept like this,” said Gülseren Yoleri, president of the IHD Istanbul branch. “However, whenever the family goes to the hospital, they [the hospital administration] direct them to the billing department.”

READ: UN’s New York Declaration pushes abortion for refugee, migrant women

She called it a scandal that the baby had been kept away from the mother because of money. “The authorities can’t discriminate when it comes to healthcare, and they have to fulfill their responsibilities.”

About 3.6 million refugees have been granted temporary protection in Turkey, with most of them living in outside camps. They struggle with poverty and are often unable to take care of their own basic needs, including health care. According to Medya News, this is not a single instance; newborn refugee babies are detained at hospitals when their parents are unable to pay the bills.

“A baby is separated from his mother for four months and has been held hostage in the hospital because the hospital bills have not been paid,” said Yoleri. “The state should not discriminate against people in health services and should fulfill its responsibility. The baby is not safe without his parents. We call upon everyone to raise their voice for the refugee family to be able to take their baby from the hospital.”

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