Israel Deports Ukrainian Refugees Hours After Arrival, in Violation of Law

Israel's immigration agency repatriated Ukrainian asylum seekers within 48 hours of their arrival, forcing them to sign forms stating they are leaving 'voluntarily'

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
Passport control at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport in March.
Passport control at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport in March.Credit: Hadas Parush
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel's Population and Immigration Authority forced three Ukrainian nationals to sign an affidavit stating they wish to leave the country just a few hours after denying them entry into Israel. Pursuant to signing, the three then boarded a plane back to Kyiv.

Following the breakout of the war in Ukraine, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled that refugees must be allowed a minimum 48-hour stay and be given the right to meet with a lawyer to exhaust their rights.

At a hearing in March pertaining to the authority's refusal to admit two brothers into the country whose mother is in Israel without a permit, Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen ordered the authority not to deport Ukrainian refugees from the country before the 48-hour period had elapsed since a decision to deport them had been made. This period is meant to allow them time to appeal such decisions.

Agmon-Gonen further ruled that immigration officials must inform all those who have been refused entry of their right to meet with an attorney and appeal the decision.

Amnon Shmueli, the Border Control Administration's station head at Ben-Gurion International Airport, said last month that in accordance with this ruling, between April 6th to May 24th, only five Ukrainian nationals were refused entry into the country.

In a court affidavit, Shmueli wrote that “in three of the five cases, the refused applicants chose out of their own free will to return immediately to the country from which they arrived, following their signing of a statement that their rights in Israel were made clear to them, and that they waive the right to an attorney and wish to return to the country from which they came as soon as possible. In light of their statements, the persons refused entry were put on a plane before 48 hours had elapsed since their arrival.”

Agmon-Gonen ruled that the details submitted by Shmueli directly contradict her previous ruling, and once again ordered that Ukrainians not be deported within the 48-hour period following their arrival in Israel.

"We must remember that these are Ukrainian citizens who fled the horror of war and came to Israel," she wrote, "They are met upon arrival by the [Population and Immigration] Authority's representatives, and we don't know what they are told – but lo and behold, they suddenly sign a statement that they wish to return [to Ukraine]."

"If that were the case," she continued, "why did they bother to board a plane to Israel? This is not a choice made out of free will, and it is most certainly not an informed one."

The topic of Ukrainian refugees has been a cause of tension between Agmon-Gonen and Israel's Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked. The judge has complained to Supreme Court President Esther Hayut that Shaked attempted to inappropriately pressure her to change her decisions regarding Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel.

A statement on Shaked's behalf at the time denied any attempt to approach Agmon-Gonen "directly or indirectly."

Shaked also recently changed the procedure regarding refusal of Ukrainian refugee requests, to prevent such hearings from taking place in Agmon-Gonen's court.

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