Number of Eastern Europeans Denied Entry in Israel Up Tenfold Since 2013

Main reason for refusal stated by immigration authority is concern that people arriving will not leave the country, with only a few cases involving security or criminal concerns

The line stretching from the entrance to the Population and Immigration Authority office in Tel Aviv, 2017
Moti Milrod מוטי מילרוד

The number of Eastern Europeans denied entry to Israel has grown tenfold over the last five years, according to Population and Immigration Authority figures obtained by Haaretz.

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In 2018, Israel refused entry to 17,000 citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Belarus, countries that have visa waiver agreements with Israel. In 2013, the number stood at 1,581.

The main reason for refusal stated by the authority is concern that people arriving will not leave the country after the three months permitted for those without visas. Only in a few cases did the rejections stem from security or criminal concerns.

The figures show that the growing trend for asylum requests by Russians reported by Haaretz six months ago continues, with a record 2,700 Russian citizens requesting asylum in 2018.

In contrast, there was a sharp decline in requests by citizens of Ukraine and Georgia. In 2017, the Immigration Authority established a fast-track denial procedure for requests from these two countries, enabling the quick repatriation of their citizens. The number of asylum requests by Georgians dropped from 1,351 in 2017 to 399 last year. The corresponding numbers for Ukrainians were 7,711 and 1,765.

Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director of the Population and Immigration Authority, told Haaretz that “unfortunately, the data points to a cynical exploitation by foreigners and their Israeli accomplices of the process that enables obtaining political asylum in Israel. These requests overload the system with thousands of pointless requests, hurting people who need this procedure and for whom it was intended.”

Citizens of the above-mentioned countries can enter Israel without procuring a visa in advance. Many are brought here through middlemen who promise them jobs and housing, guiding them on how to apply for asylum. The authority’s figures point to a sharp rise in the number of tourists and asylum seekers from these countries.

The number of asylum seekers from Russia last year, the highest since 2013, is believed to be a result of the poor economic situation in Russia, not of political persecution, as described by applicants.

Due to the high volume of asylum requests, their processing often takes years. Until they are denied, applicants cannot be deported.

This has led to a declaration that Ukraine and Georgia are safe countries, with no impediment to repatriating their citizens. This enables an accelerated denial of requests without the need to examine them in depth, a procedure usually taking a few weeks.