ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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Israel extends visas of Ukrainian refugees until July, reportedly after US pressure

Interior minister says work ban won’t be enforced against Ukrainians who fled Russian invasion if they’ve been in country at least 90 days

Illustrative. Jewish Ukrainian refugees at an emergency shelter sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Joint Distribution Committee in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 5, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative. Jewish Ukrainian refugees at an emergency shelter sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Joint Distribution Committee in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 5, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Interior Minister Moshe Arbel has extended the visas of Ukrainian refugees who have been living in Israel since fleeing the Russian invasion, reportedly following pressure from the United States.

In a statement posted online Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said it would also not enforce work restrictions on Ukrainian nationals who have been in the country for at least 90 days.

The Interior Ministry said the extension would be in effect until the end of July.

“At the end of this period, the policy will be reexamined in accordance with the latest data,” the ministry said.

As part of a bilateral deal, Ukrainians without a visa can enter Israel and visit for up to three months. Due to the ongoing war, Israel has extended the visas of non-Jewish refugees after a cap limiting their entry was struck down by the High Court of Justice. Those with Jewish roots have automatic rights to become citizens under Israel’s Law of Return.

Arbel’s decision will affect some 14,200 Ukrainians, according to the Haaretz daily, which reported that the move came after the Foreign Ministry asked the Population Immigration and Border Authority to improve its treatment of the refugees, following US criticism.

Ukraine has also criticized Israel over its policy toward the refugees, as has an aid group that said in February that they were receiving “inadequate” services.

Last week, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry said that special procedures meant to help Ukrainians expedite immigration to Israel will remain in place, while they will be canceled for Russians and Belarusians.

While helping Ukrainians fleeing the Russian onslaught has been Jerusalem’s top priority, it is Russians — and to a much smaller extent Belarusians — who have made up the vast majority of new immigrants as they seek to avoid mandatory conscription and feared escalation in human rights abuses by the Kremlin.

In December, the Knesset Research and Information Center reported that from March through October 2022, 29,133 immigrants arrived from Russia, 13,570 from Ukraine and 1,580 from Belarus.

Though Belarus has not joined in the war, tens of thousands of Russian troops invaded Ukraine from its northern neighbor, and Russian forces continue to be deployed there.

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