An Israeli government minister received an apology from Boris Johnson and Cop26 organizers after she was unable to attend the summit on Monday due to a lack of wheelchair accessibility.
Karine Elharrar, Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources, described how she was denied entry to the summit because as a wheelchair user she could not access the Glasgow site , describing the refusal to host him as “scandalous”.
Elharrar, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, waited two hours outside after organizers refused to let her into the compound in the vehicle she had arrived in, she said.
His office said he was eventually offered shuttle transport to the summit area, but the shuttle was not wheelchair accessible, forcing him to return to his hotel in Edinburgh.
She wrote on Twitter: âI came to Cop26 to meet my counterparts from all over the world and promote a common fight in the climate crisis. It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events.
An official in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s delegation said they officially complained to the organizers, The Times of Israel reported. Bennett reportedly said Elharrar’s vehicle would arrive in the summit area on Tuesday as part of his official convoy, securing entry.
Johnson then apologized personally to Elharrar when she joined a meeting between him and Bennett, saying he was sorry for the “confusion.” Bennett thanked his UK counterpart for his “quick response to this unfortunate incident” and called it a “learning opportunity for all of us about the importance of accessibility for all,” a statement backed by Johnson.
Cop26 organizers tweeted: âRegarding Minister Elharrar’s experience at the port of entry yesterday, it was a real mistake and we apologized for it. We are happy to see her present at Cop26 today. Cop26 must be inclusive and accessible to all and the venue is designed to facilitate this. “
Elharrar told BBC News she made it to the climate summit on Tuesday “very easily” and that it was “quite a different experience”.
Previously, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We deeply regret this incident.” He added that there appeared to have been a communication problem and the organizers had not been made aware of Elharrar’s requirements in advance and therefore had not made the right arrangements at the particular entrance where she was surrendering.
âI know most of the other entrances are wheelchair accessible. That’s because she got to an entrance where they didn’t have that provision, âhe told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, adding that action should have been taken to address the issue. .
A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in London told BBC News that the country’s summit delegation had “communicated in recent weeks full details of the minister’s demands.”
UK Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan tweeted that he had apologized “deeply and sincerely” to the minister. âWe want a welcoming and inclusive cop summit for everyone,â he wrote.
Foreign Minister James Cleverly tweeted: “I am deeply disappointed and frustrated that the Minister @KElharrar could not access Cop today. The Cop site is designed to be accessible to everyone. I have spoken to the minister and look forward to meeting her tomorrow.
Elharrar said News from Israel on Channel 12: âThe only way they told me I could get in was by walking for almost a mile or by boarding a shuttle that was not wheelchair accessible. “
She said Ynetnews.com that the organizers blocked all roads leading to the conference and left it aside despite the Israeli delegation’s best efforts to convince security to let it in.
âIt was impossible to get in a car and I couldn’t go that distance independently,â she said. âThis is outrageous conduct and it shouldn’t have happened. I came for some reasons and couldn’t reach them today, but there will be other opportunities.
âThe UN calls on everyone to act in accordance with the international convention and to make places accessible, so it is normal that its events are accessible. I sincerely hope that today’s lesson will be learned so that tomorrow the promotion of green energy, the removal of barriers and energy efficiency are the only things I have to face.