Israel is willing to accept 5,000 non-Jewish refugees fleeing the fighting in Ukraine, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced Tuesday, adding that about 20,000 Ukrainians who had been in the country before the war began will not be deported for now.
According to the latest figures by the Population and Immigration Authority, 2,519 Ukrainians who aren't eligible for aliyah arrived in Israel so far since February 24, when the Russian invasion began. That means that less than 2,500 Ukrainian refugees will be allowed in the country as of Shaked's announcement.
The European Union said on Tuesday its member states had so far taken in two million refugees fleeing the Russian invasion and expected millions more to follow.
It is clear, Shaked told a press briefing, "that we can't take in Ukrainians without any limits," calling the revised policy "responsible."
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Shaked's announcement follows public pressure and calls by some ministers to do more to take in refugees who fled Russia's invasion.
Following the announcement, Likud's Yariv Levin slammed Shaked for "opening up the country's borders," arguing the new policy will "flood the country with foreign immigrants."
Those arriving will be granted temporary permits for three months without any social benefits and without recognition as refugees. "If the situation doesn't improve" after that time, Israel may consider allowing them to work, Shaked said.
The new policy prioritizes "as much as possible" Ukrainians with contacts in Israel, who can apply on their behalf.
Ukrainians already in the country – mostly those who entered Israel on a tourist visa and "stayed here illegally," according to the minister – will be allowed to stay for at least three months, too.
In a policy shift, which will go into effect on Sunday, Israel will also no longer require a cash deposit of 10,000 shekels (about $3,000) for Ukrainian immigrants upon arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
According to the existing immigration authority guidelines, any Israeli wishing to host a relative from Ukraine who might settle in the country must deposit collateral of at least 10,000 shekels, and guarantee that they will leave the country within a month. According to Shaked, some 15-20 percent of the Ukrainians entering Israel are required to post collateral.
Reuters contributed to this report.