The state has agreed to increase the pace of immigration from Ethiopia, after several months bringing in fewer members of the Falashmura community than it had promised.
The decision was made Sunday night at a closed-door meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, attended by representatives of the Jewish Agency, the interior and immigrant absorption ministries, and Ethiopian-immigrant advocacy organizations.
According to the new plan, 1,000 Falashmura - descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity - will be brought to Israel in the next four months. The pace of immigration could be increased after that, depending on available space in immigrant absorption centers.
Late last year Haaretz revealed that the government had cut its quota for Ethiopian immigrants to 110 a month, despite an October 2010 cabinet resolution to bring in 200 Falashmura a month as part of a plan to bring all of the remaining 4,500 members of the community to Israel by March 2014.
Treasury and PMO officials said at the time that the decision to slow the pace of immigration of the Falashmura - who are waiting in a refugee camp in Ethiopia's Gondar province - was made after an interministerial committee appointed to study the issue determined that, by December 2011, Israeli absorption centers would run out of space if the higher pace was maintained.
But in January, both the Jewish Agency and the Public Committee for Ethiopian Jews confirmed the imminent availability of space for 1,000 new immigrants in absorption centers around the country. Additionally, a Knesset delegation issued a report of its September 2011 visit to Gondar, containing harsh descriptions of the conditions there.
"The delegation met with thousands whose immigration applications have been approved and who are waiting to immigrate to Israel, visited their homes and found that these are people who live in the most difficult housing conditions, [and suffer from] hunger, poverty and a shortage of food, water, clothing and severe health problems. The children in the compound suffer from malnutrition, weak immune systems, and other illness due to their extended stay waiting for aliyah after leaving their homes and villages," the report said.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued last night that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry could be asked to examine the possibility of opening an additional absorption center for the Falashmura.
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