Israel Seeking to Limit Number of Ukrainians Allowed to Enter the Country

This comes after Israel's top court ruled that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is entitled to amend the order permitting Ukrainian refugees entry if the Knesset's Interior Committee approves the amendment

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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Ukrainian refugees at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, in March.
Ukrainian refugees at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, in March.Credit: Hadas Parush
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel's Interior Ministry is seeking to limit the number of Ukrainian refugees allowed into the country and requesting to convene a meeting on amending the order permitting them entry.

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The request by Population and Migration Authority comes after the High Court of Justice ruled this week that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked was entitled to amend the order if the Knesset's Interior Committee approves the amendment.

The order and its amendment apply to Ukrainians who are not eligible for immigration under the Law and Return.

The decision follows a larger ruling in which a panel of justices led by President Esther Hayut found that Israel couldn’t restrict the number of Ukrainian refugees because of an agreement between the two countries exempting Ukrainians from any visa requirement.

Convening a meeting of the interior committee during an election recess is a complicated process, with the authority to decide whether to hold the meeting lying with the committee’s chairman, United Arab List lawmaker Walid Taha. It also requires approval by the Knesset Arrangements Committee, which operates during the election recess and comprises lawmakers from both coalition and opposition parties.

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

The Interior Committee has asked Shaked to provide documents related to the issue, which Taha will study before making a decision. If the committee doesn’t meet, the Population Authority is weighing whether to impose certain restrictions on Ukrainians who arrived in Israel since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

In a copy of the amendment obtained by Haaretz, the ministry writes: “Following the High Court ruling, the entry order into Israel can be interpreted in a way that allows restrictions on the entry of Ukrainian citizens into Israel. Due to the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian citizens to the country in the recent period, it would be appropriate to restrict and amend the order temporarily thereby enabling temporary supervision of Ukrainians entering the country and to establish criteria enabling entry to Israel until the situation is clarified.”

In its ruling on Sunday, the High Court said that the bilateral agreement, which allows stays of up to three months without the traveler providing advance notice, applies to nationals fleeing their country due to war. It rejected Shaked’s claim that the order didn’t apply to war refugees because the agreement related to ordinary conditions and to tourist travel.

The justices ruled that the government was authorized to decide which Ukrainians could enter Israel on a case-by-case basis, but it rejected the policy that the Interior Ministry has been employing since the war broke out that set a ceiling of 5,000 for the total number of Ukrainian nationals allowed to enter Israel.

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