Ukrainian officials are blasting Israel’s policy on Ukrainian refugees, saying they are “denying shelter” to people in danger because of refugee quotas.
“Russia is committing genocide of Ukrainians, killing thousands of civilians, while the Israeli Government inspects each and every refugee from Ukraine with a fine-toothed comb,” the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel posted in a statement on Facebook. “We urge those who take the decision to cancel the policy of quotas and other artificial obstacles towards women and children fleeing war-torn Ukraine.
Israeli officials have defended their policy. Israeli Population and Immigration Authority Director Tomer Moskowitz told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper “[T]he world is full of trouble. Terrible things happen all the time, and I’m not being cynical. But does that mean that we have to take in people indiscriminately? I am the guard at the country’s gate and I can’t open it to everyone.”
Under Israel’s “Law of Return,” any Jew, or anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, is eligible for Israeli citizenship along with their families. There is no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can enter under the “Law of Return,” and Israeli officials say they are preparing for a wave of up to 100,000 Ukrainian and Russian citizens eligible to enter the country.
Israeli citizens are also eligible to apply for entry permits for their non-Jewish Ukrainian family members with no quota.
Aside from those two groups, Israel has instituted a 5,000 person quota of Ukrainians without family connections but must apply for permission first.
Refugee family members of Israeli citizens and those with no connections will initially be issued three-month tourist visas, which may be changed to work permits if the war lasts longer.
The Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told CNN that on Wednesday night 12 Ukrainian citizens were turned away at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and sent back to Poland for not having entry permits.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote in a Facebook post that “The recent decisions of the Israeli leadership aimed at restricting the admission of Ukrainians, to put it mildly, are surprising. We consider the suspension of visa-free travel and the introduction of the system of electronic permits of the [Interior Ministry] to enter Israel to be an unfriendly step for the citizens of Ukraine, which needs to be corrected immediately.”
The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel wrote on Facebook that they’ve asked Israeli authorities to allow Ukrainians with Israeli relatives to invite them in without prior approval, and an alternate mechanism that will allow Ukrainians with friends in Israel who can host them to enter as well