Sasha Zlobjn from Kharkiv, Ukraine, is the 10,000th person to immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, as of Monday afternoon, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry said.
Zlobjn arrived in Israel with his grandparents on Monday, fleeing the brutal flighting in Kharkiv, on a flight with dozens of other Ukrainian refugees.
“I fled Kharkiv with my grandmother and grandfather, but unfortunately my parents stayed there. It was an exhausting trip that ended with this nice reception,” Zlobjn told immigration officials, according to the ministry.
More than two-thirds of the 10,000 people who have immigrated to Israel in the past month have come from Ukraine, according to the ministry. The rest have come from Russia and Belarus. As the government considers all of these immigrants from the former Soviet Union as fleeing humanitarian crises — the war in Ukraine and increased repression in Russia and Belarus — the ministry has taken to lumping all of them in one group for the purposes of its statistics.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata hailed the massive wave of immigration from Ukraine, but acknowledged that it is driven by “difficult circumstances.”
“The State of Israel sees this as its hour of need, and there is great national and governmental effort toward the absorption of immigrants,” Tamano-Shata told the 90 Ukrainian refugees who arrived on Zlobjn’s flight.
Israeli officials have estimated that tens of thousands of people from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus will immigrate to Israel in the coming weeks and months in light of the war.
Last week, the Jewish Agency said it was significantly stepping up its immigration flights to tackle the growing refugee crisis on Ukraine’s borders.
When Russia first launched its invasion, a handful of immigration flights reached Israel each week. That soon became at least one per day, bringing roughly 150 immigrants to Israel each time. Now, several hundred new immigrants arrive in Israel each day, according to the Immigration and Absorption Ministry.
In order to relieve the bottleneck forming in the countries neighboring Ukraine that have been taking in refugees, the government has been bringing over would-be immigrants who have reasonable claims for citizenship on tourist visas and then processing their requests in Israel.
Of the 10,000 new immigrants who have arrived in the past month, roughly a third — 3,369 — have opted to spend their first few weeks in the country in hotel rooms rented by the government. The rest have arranged their own housing, many with relatives who already live in Israel.
In the coming weeks, however, as more and more people arrive and require places to sleep, those hotel rooms will likely no longer be available and the government will have to find alternative housing for the new immigrants, as those hotels are often booked by Jewish Israelis for the Passover holiday.