On Wednesday, the High Court of Justice issued orders for the state to provide clarification as to why they have imposed a cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees, even though they have a years-old diplomatic agreement permitting Ukrainian citizens to enter Israel automatically with tourist visas for three months. An Israeli lawyer filed the petition on behalf of the Ukrainian embassy and three weeks have been granted to the state for coming up with a response. The state had responded to the same petition in the previous month and asserted that the Ukrainians entering the country were not included in the exemption because they are different from tourists.
These people are fleeing their country because of the Russian invasion. The state said that they were leaving their homes behind and leaving Ukraine for an unspecified period of time. Meanwhile, the agreement allows only a three-month stay to tourists. However, it appears that the court was not satisfied with this explanation and has demanded further clarification to be provided by May 1st. Lawyer Tomer Warsha filed an appeal with the High Court for issuing an injunction that would prevent the government from implementing its refugee policy.
But, the panel of judges comprising of three members and headed by Chief Justice Esther Hayut, turned down the request. The Ukrainian embassy expressed its gratitude towards the court and asked the Israeli government to not wait for a court ruling to allow all refugees in. The embassy said that they wanted the government to allow Ukrainians to come in by the force of a moral and humanitarian approach, rather than a judicial one. It said that they hoped the government would not wait for the final judgment from the court to allow Ukrainian citizens to enter and would respect the spirit of the non-visa regime between the two countries.
This week, the state informed the court that they have permitted 13,272 to enter Israel so far, even though they are not eligible under the Law of Return. 5,447 of these people don’t have any family in Israel, but 7,585 of them do. The current policy for refugees had been announced last month by Ayelet Shaked, the Interior Minister. It states that anyone fleeing Ukraine would be allowed to enter Israel, as long as they are eligible for citizenship, or have family members living in the country. An additional 5,000 people who do not fall into this criteria would be permitted to enter.
Along with these, the government also allowed 20,000 Ukrainians who were already in Israel on expired visas even before the Russian invasion to continue to stay in the country. Last month, the High Court had agreed to hear the appeal, even though the state had asked it to throw it out. Now, the state has been given three weeks to provide an explanation about the cap they have decided to impose on refugees coming in from Ukraine after they had their home invaded by Russia back in February.