Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority has ordered a teenage girl and her mother to leave the country within two weeks and go back to war-torn Ukraine after 10 years in the country.
Liza Kozmina, 18, who is in 12th grade and plays for Israel’s national handball team, was in the country legally after her mother, Oksana Kozmina, married an Israeli, Channel 12 reported.
However, following his recent death the ministry revoked their residency and denied a claim for citizenship, saying that the marriage appeared to be “fictitious.”
The pair have been ordered by authorities to return to the Ukrainian city of Kherson, currently the focal point of intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, the report said.
It said that Oksana’s son is currently serving in the Ukrainian army in its battle against Russian forces.
“In February, a few hours after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, we had a meeting with the Population Authority. My son serves in the Ukrainian army and I was under immense stress that day.
“We waited half a year for an answer and now we received a message saying that within 14 days we need to leave Israel,” Oksana said.
Liza said she considers herself Israeli and had intended to perform her mandatory service in the IDF, like her friends.
“I really want to continue living in Israel. My life is here, my childhood was here and I can’t see myself in any other place,” she said. She added that her friends who have received their first military draft notice keep asking her when she will get one too, but conceded, “I don’t know what to answer, I don’t know what will be.”
A letter signed by Hadas Driks, an immigration official responsible for managing humanitarian cases, read, “A prolonged stay in Israel does not constitute a humanitarian reason that justifies staying in Israel. Oksana does not have family in Israel except for her daughter, and on the other hand, she has her son and sister, to whom she has maintained a connection, waiting for her in Ukraine.”
In a separate document provided to Oksana and Liza, the Population Authority, part of the Interior Ministry, said the two were “required to leave the country within 14 days of receiving this letter.”
Meretz MK Mossi Raz called on authorities to intervene, saying, “A student in Israel who goes to an Israeli school with Israeli students, who doesn’t know any other country, is concerned she or her mother will be deported.”
He continued, “The two of them are from Ukraine, which is currently in a state of war. It is dangerous to return there. The State of Israel needs to show a lot more heart.”
In a post on his Twitter account, Raz also appealed to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to provide a solution.
While she didn’t commit to providing an exemption, Shaked did say that “these days, there is a policy of ‘non-removal’ and insisted the pair would not be deported.” However, she did not respond to a request to comment on the discrepancy between her statement and the content of the letter.
The Population and Immigration Authority told Channel 12 that due to the pair’s history of leaving the country for prolonged periods of time, in addition to the inconsistency of Oksana’s relationship with her now-deceased partner, a committee determined that Israel “was not the center of their lives,” and they did not meet the required criteria for a humanitarian case.