High Court Halts Immigration of 3,000 Ethiopians With Close Relatives in Israel

The freeze of a cabinet decision to let thousands of Ethiopian immigrants with first-degree relatives in to Israel will remain in place until a decision is made

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Immigrants arriving in Israel, 2020.
Immigrants arriving in Israel, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday issued an order freezing the evacuation to Israel of 3,000 Ethiopians in transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar in light of an appeal claiming that most of them are not Jewish.

The freeze of a cabinet decision to let 3,000 Ethiopian immigrants with first-degree relatives in to Israel will remain in place until a decision is made about the future of the operation.

A petition to the High Court by the NGO Israeli Immigration Policy Center and others states that “as it was revealed recently in the media and an Interior Ministry report, those seeking to immigrate to Israel are on unsupervised lists, and only when they come to Israel do they ‘prove’ that they are of the seed of Israel. Obviously the criteria of that ‘proof’ do not exist nor are they defined, and in any case there is a serious lapse here in administrative propriety.”

According to the petition, the first to act against the government decision to bring the waiting Ethiopians to Israel “were in fact the members of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, whose authentic Jewish identity and image were harmed as a result of granting status to those who come from Ethiopia but have no proven association to Judaism. A prominent number of them have joined the petition.”

The petition states that the government decision and the criteria for immigration contravene the Entry to Israel Law and the policy of immigration to Israel, because it is a core issue that is in deep public dispute, and because the new decision has far-reaching consequences. The decision, according to the petition, also “goes against customs and rulings in place for many years.”

The basic argument of the petitioners is that the interior minister or the government cannot make decisions in principle regarding immigration policy, the granting of citizenship or residency without legislation on the matter.

In November, Haaretz reported that Israel had brought dozens of immigrants to Israel secretly from Ethiopia, where a civil war is underway, and after they arrived here it emerged that most of them are not Jewish. Haaretz learned that the Population and Immigration Authority said the operation, which put human lives at risk and threatened Israel’s diplomatic ties with Ethiopia, was “a planned conspiracy that took advantage of the system.”

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