Immigration to Israel surging, asylum seekers no longer arriving — state report

Central Bureau of Statistics says Israel on pace for 20% increase in immigration; over 3 million have moved to Israel since 1949, though many have left

New immigrants from North America after disembarking from an El Al flight at Ben Gurion Airport, August 14, 2019. (Flash90)
New immigrants from North America after disembarking from an El Al flight at Ben Gurion Airport, August 14, 2019. (Flash90)

Israel is on pace for a 20 percent surge in immigration in 2019 over the year before, according to new figures released on Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In 2019, some 27,300 people immigrated to the Jewish state between January and the end of October, the CBS report said. The state report said the figure was 20% more than the same period last year.

Over 28,000 new immigrants moved to Israel in 2018, according to the report. The 27,300 figure would put Israel on pace to break 32,000 new immigrants for the entirety of 2019, though figures are expected to slow for the winter months.

The bureau reported that more than 37,000 people in total moved to Israel in 2018, including 3,500 “returning citizens.”

The largest chunk of migrants in 2018, about 10,500 people, came from Russia while 6,400 hailed from Ukraine, 2,400 from the United States and 2,400 from France.

The official report also spotlighted the sharp dropoff in asylum seekers from Africa entering the country, with not a single person in the category in 2018.

According to authorities, some 2,700 asylum seekers left the country in 2018. It said 33,600 migrants from Eritrea and Sudan remained in the country as of late 2018.

According to the report, more than 3 million people have immigrated to Israel since the establishment of the state, with around 44 percent of them arriving after 1990.

Some of the rise in immigration could be attributable to a law passed in 2017 granting an Israeli passport to anyone eligible for Israeli citizenship, without any requirement to reside in the country.

A November report by the Makor Rishon newspaper suggested many Russian speakers had claimed Israeli citizenship but quickly returned to their home countries after receiving state benefits.

According to statistics released by the bureau earlier this year, 2018 marked the first time in Israel’s history when Jewish immigrants to Israel were outnumbered by non-Jewish immigrants.

Under Israel’s Law of Return, anyone with a single Jewish grandparent is eligible for citizenship. Such immigrants, hailing largely from the former Soviet Union and Baltic states, count Jewish ancestry but are ineligible to marry as Jews under the state-controlled rabbinic court system if, for example, that single Jewish grandparent was male.

In this January 30, 2018, photo, new Jewish immigrants from Ukraine arrive on a flight funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

According to the bureau’s figures, 85% of immigrants reported satisfaction with their lives in Israel, which was lower than the 92% reported among other Israeli Jews.

In a report released this summer, the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, an independent nonpartisan center, found that Israel was losing some of its brightest and best minds as tech professionals, engineers and academics leave its shores, thus depriving the country of fuel for its economy.

For every Israeli with an academic degree who returned to Israel in 2014, 2.6 Israeli academics emigrated. By 2017, this figure had risen to 4.5 emigrants per returnee.

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