A new Interior Ministry regulation would bar certain foreign nationals, who had illegally lived in Israel and then left of their own volition, from entering Israel again. This severely tightens immigration policy in Israel, as it bars the entry of foreign nationals from 60 countries exempt from visa requirements, including Russia, Romania, Colombia and the Philippines, for at least a year and up to a lifetime. It will affect tens of thousands of people, including the families of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and of former foreign workers, who were granted Israeli citizenship according to an arrangement for foreign workers' children.
According to the regulation, foreign workers from visa-exempt countries who remained in the country illegally for more than 30 days and then left on their own volition would be subject to a two-year "cooling-off" period. The price to be paid by foreigners who arrived as tourists but remained in the country illegally for a period of up to 30 days is slightly lower - a no-entry period of just one year. However, a foreign worker who is caught and deported from Israel will be barred from entering the country for a period of 10 years. A tourist or foreign worker residing in the country for over a year without a permit will be barred from returning for the rest of his or her lifetime, unless he or she receives a special permit from the immigration authorities in advance. According to the regulation, foreign workers who remained in Israel legally and departed as required will not be allowed to return for a year following their departure.
The regulation is a partial implementation of the Law for Illegal Aliens being debated in the Knesset, amid strident objection. The law provides that no entry permit will be granted to an illegal immigrant before an extended "cooling-off" period has passed, and anyone seeking such status is required to leave the country for the duration of this period. The Law for Illegal Aliens, which also precludes legalization of the status of partners and family members of Israelis who live in the country, has met with strong opposition. Nevertheless, the new regulation addresses only cases in which the person in question has already left the country.
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, who has often clarified his support for stringent immigration policies, said during a December 2007 Knesset debate that "it is my duty to protect Israel from entry of unwanted persons." He added, "It is not our job to deal with all of the criminals of the world. There are 300,000 criminals, prostitutes and drug dealers here."
Attorney Oded Feller from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the move a "draconian regulation" and an extreme and unreasonable exercise of judgment on the part of the interior minister."
"Time after time, the Interior Ministry sets procedures that are then struck down by the courts. It's a familiar, repeated saga," he said.
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