May 16, 2022

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Israel Said to Reach Cap on Non-Jewish Ukrainian Refugees

3 min read

On Sunday, Israel said that they have reached the maximum number of non-Jewish refugees they were willing to accept, as already thousands of refugees had arrived from Ukraine. There has been a lot of internal debate in the government over the Ukrainian refugees, applying to the one who cannot qualify for it under Israel’s Law of Return that allows anyone with a grandparent or parent in the country to automatically receive citizenship. Last week, Ayelet Shaked, the Interior Minister, said that they would permit about 20,000 people from Ukraine who had either been staying illegally in Israel before the invasion or were on a tourist visa to stay in the country. 

She further added that they were going to accept 5,000 more Ukrainian refugees of non-Jewish descent who were fleeing the country. The visas would allow the people to stay in Israel without worrying about deportation. However, they would not be legally permitted to work, take advantage of healthcare in Israel, or send their kids to school. As for Jewish Ukrainians, they are allowed to enter Israel and are granted citizenship thanks to the Law of Return. The government believes that tens of thousands Ukrainian and Russian Jews will come to Israel because of the war.

According to the statistics provided on Sunday by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, there are 7,179 people who have come to Israel from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion in late February. Of this total, there are 221 people who were not granted entry. As 2,000 Ukrainians that have arrived have immigration rights, it seems that they have reached the cap on non-Jewish refugees. Israeli officials did not respond immediately to the matter. Alex Zarnopolsky, the immigration lawyer who had been working on helping the refugees said that they had reached the limit of 5,000 non-Jewish refugees. 

He stated that it had been apparent that by the time the quota would become applicable, they would have reached it already. The lawyer said that in practical terms, they were no longer receiving any Ukrainian refugees. A number of those who had been able to enter Israel are now staying with their friends or family. The immigration attorney said that a number these refugees have family who are citizens in Israel, or are present in the country. However, they still do not qualify for citizenship in accordance with the Israeli Law of Return. 

Refugees are being housed in two hotels in Tel Aviv, while their paperwork is in process. These are the Grand Beach Hotel and the Dan Panorama Hotel. The refugees had initially been held at the Ben Gurion Airport, but the dismal conditions resulted in public outcry, so the refugees were shifted to the hotels. According to Zarnopolsky, the Interior Ministry has not given any updates, which means it remains unclear as to whether they will allow more people in or not. He said that they were trying to refuse people as much as possible. He said that Jewish refugees had been welcomed, but those of non-Jewish descent are not being given social welfare rights and more. 

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