Israel: The Only Democracy That Has Banned Entry to Own Citizens

Roi Simyoni
Roi Simyoni
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Travelers show their electronic bracelets at the arrivals terminal of Ben Gurion international airport on Monday
Travelers show their electronic bracelets at the arrivals terminal of Ben Gurion international airport on MondayCredit: Amir Cohen / REUTERS
Roi Simyoni
Roi Simyoni

Israel is the only democracy in the world that bars its own citizens from entering the country, a Haaretz investigation has concluded.

The findings were based on statements by foreign governments, media reports and the website of the International Air Transport Association, which monitors restrictions on travel worldwide.

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Moreover, it’s not just democracies that let their citizens return home; almost every country in the world allows citizens and permanent residents to return. For a few countries, such as Eritrea, no information about entry or exit restrictions was available.

Israel halted both incoming and outgoing flights at Ben-Gurion International Airport on January 26 to prevent the entry and spread of new coronavirus variants. Since then, people have only been able to return on special “rescue” flights, and only if their entry was approved by the Transportation Ministry’s exceptions committee due to special personal, medical or humanitarian considerations.

A traveler gestures as he arrives at the desk in the arrivals terminal of Ben Gurion international airport on MondayCredit: Amir Cohen / REUTERS

The Israel Democracy Institute conducted a more limited survey of seven other countries – Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Canada, Sweden and Russia – and found that none of them sweepingly deny entry to their own citizens, making the Israeli policy an outlier.

In a few countries, like Australia, there are limits on how many citizens and permanent residents can enter each day, which means that some cannot return as soon as they might like. But in contrast to Israel, this limit stems from the fact that there are very few flights rather than from a policy that prohibits mass returns a priori.

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