Israel’s High Court Allows Visa Exemption for Ukrainians Fleeing War

Ukrainians will now be eligible for three-month stays in a rebuff to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked's closed-door policies; Israel has already deported dozens of Ukrainians without hearings, in violation of court orders

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Ukrainians at Ben-Gurion Airport in March.
Ukrainians at Ben-Gurion Airport in March.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

The High Court of Justice ruled Sunday that the visa exemption agreement between Israel and Ukraine also applies to Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country, with Ukrainians allowed to stay in Israel for up to three months.

In its ruling, which was commended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and welcomed by the Ukrainian Embassy, the High Court granted the petition despite the Interior Ministry’s opposition.

Israel has deported dozens of Ukrainians without hearings, in violation of court orders. In early May, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen said Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked was putting undue pressure on her in a bid to influence her rulings.

Ukrainian refugees at the Ben Gurion Airport, March.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Since the war began on February 24, of the more than 21,000 refugees not covered by the Law of Return who entered Israel, only 14,500 were still in the country at the beginning of June.

On Sunday, the High Court added that its ruling did not block the principle of sovereignty that lets the government decide who enters the country; this also applies to Ukrainian citizens.

High Court President Esther Hayut, who heard the petition along with justices Uzi Vogelman and Isaac Amit, wrote that the interior minister has the right to exempt Ukrainians from a visa requirement after consulting with the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at Ben Gurion Airport in March.Credit: Moti Milrod

But “the interior minister also has the authority to refuse entry to citizens to whom an exemption applies,” in accordance with the law.

“This is authority to refuse entry to such citizens on an individual basis ... in contrast to group restrictions,” Hayut wrote.

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