Israeli authorities have banned Ethiopian Christian pilgrims groups from visiting the country for the upcoming Easter holiday over fears they will not return home, Israeli television reported Sunday.
According to Channel 13 news, tourism agencies recently received a letter from the Population and Immigration Authority that said due to the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia, there were concerns “these tourists will not head back due to it.”
The letter also said that any Ethiopian who wishes to visit Israel must do so personally by contacting the authorities online.
The network noted Israel has not imposed any such restrictions on pilgrims from other countries.
Yossi Fatal, head of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, wrote to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to decry the policy as “severely discriminatory.” He said groups in Ethiopia have contacted Israeli officials in protest.
In response to the report, the population authority justified the policy, saying that “many tourist groups arriving from Ethiopia over the past years have indeed not returned and remained in Israel illegally.”