Ben Gurion passport control backed up as foreign travelers forced to wait 2 hours

Population and Immigration Authority bemoans shortfall of 250 employees; current workers blame recruitment problems on low salaries

Tourists arriving at Ben Gurion Airport wait in long queues to clear passport control, February 13, 2023. (Screenshot/Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Tourists arriving at Ben Gurion Airport wait in long queues to clear passport control, February 13, 2023. (Screenshot/Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Non-Israelis arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday were welcomed with massive lines at passport control, and many were forced to wait more than two hours to enter the country.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority, which operates passport control, blamed the long lines — which stretched well beyond the confines of the entry hall — on staffing constraints, saying that of the 500 personnel that used to work at the airport, fewer than 200 remain.

Though PIBA did not explain why staffing had been so significantly reduced, employees told Channel 12 that low wages were to blame for an inability to recruit staff in the wake of COVID.

According to the report, PIBA workers at the airport earn minimum wage — NIS 29 ($8.19) per hour.

The authority “doesn’t understand that there’s a shortage,” a worker was quoted as saying. “We can’t get all the tourists into Israel. If something doesn’t change it’s only going to get worse.”

PIBA said it was having “difficulties” recruiting staff in recent months, creating a shortfall of 250 border control workers.

Illustrative – Passengers head to the departure gates at Ben Gurion International Airport, June 6, 2022. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

“Border control workers are doing everything they can to provide good service under the current conditions,” it told the channel. “We hope that increased manpower will soon be approved and workers’ conditions will be improved, enabling us to respond adequately to the large volume of visitors arriving in Israel.”

In January, 258,000 tourists entered the country, only 10 percent less than January 2019, which was a bumper year for tourism to Israel.

That year saw a total of 4.9 million visitors enter the country, contributing NIS 20 billion ($5.6 billion) to the economy.

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