Israel to Limit Number of non-Jewish Ukrainian Refugees

The policy, which Israel's interior minister says should be announced in the coming days, will allow some refugees to obtain work permits

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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Ukrainian refugees at Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel, March.
Ukrainian refugees at Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel, March.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel will soon announce a new policy that caps the number of non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees allowed into Israel on humanitarian grounds, the interior minister said Monday.

“Israel has a challenge no other country faces in terms of the number of people entering the country per capita,” Minister Ayalet Shaked said in an interview on Kan Bet public radio Monday.

“We’ll allow a humanitarian quota for people ineligible for the Law of Return," she said, referring to the Israeli law that permits Jews, children of Jews, grandchildren of Jews and their spouses to immigrate and receive automatic Israeli citizenship.

Ukrainian refugees at Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel, March.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The policy, which Shaked says should be announced in the coming days, will allow some refugees to obtain work permits.

Shaked said that, of the roughly 2,800 Ukrainians who have entered Israel since Russia invaded, about 20 percent were eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return – a corrected figure from a 10 percent figure she initially cited both in the interview and in a Knesset debate a day earlier.

Shaked said over half of the Ukrainian arrivals on Sunday entered under the Law of Return, with Israel admitting 745 and rejecting 17.

According to Israel’s population authority, overall the state has denied entry to 129 of the Ukrainian citizens who have entered the country since the outbreak of the war on Feb. 24.

In a Knesset debate Sunday, Shaked said Israel should do more to bring in Jews and others eligible for the Law of Return. "We can’t keep going at this rate of entry" from Ukraine, she said, adding that in the coming days a "more balanced policy" will be formulated.

She remarked that around 26,000 non-Israeli Ukrainians were in Israel – 13,000 illegally, 2,500 on tourist permits, 4,000 with asylum-seeker status and the rest with work permits. Shaked added that local authorities were preparing to take in 100,000 Jews and their families from Ukraine and Russia under the Law of Return.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel would focus on the absorption of Jewish refugees, saying it would "ensure that those Jews who flee from places of danger are received here in the State of Israel in the best possible way, that they enter an open door and into a warm home."

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