2,500 temporary housing units planned

Israel said planning interim caravan housing for Ukrainian immigrants in 3 cities

New arrivals expected to pay symbolic sum toward water and electricity, while most of the cost will be covered by the state at around NIS 500 million

Ukrainian immigrants to Israel who fled fighting in Ukraine arrive on a rescue flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Ukrainian immigrants to Israel who fled fighting in Ukraine arrive on a rescue flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has reportedly come to an agreement with the mayors of three cities to set up approximately 2,500 temporary housing units for new immigrants from Ukraine.

According to a Channel 13 news report on Saturday, Liberman and the mayors of Ashdod, Rishon Lezion and Nof Hagalil have agreed to establish the temporary housing sites to aid in the absorption of the wave of immigrants fleeing the fighting in Ukraine.

The new immigrants will be expected to pay a symbolic sum toward water and electricity to stay in the caravans, while most of the cost will be covered by the state at around NIS 500 million ($155 million), Channel 13 reported.

Sources close to Liberman were quoted by Channel 13 as saying that the measure is merely temporary and that in the future the areas will be designated for residential construction.

The Population and Immigration Authority reported on Saturday that 13,513 Ukrainian refugees have entered Israel since the outbreak of war almost a month ago.

The figure includes approximately 3,500 who are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. They are joined by another several thousand arriving from Russia, Belarus, and other countries in the region.

Immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at the immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Since the war broke out, 275 Ukrainian citizens were refused entry to Israel, and 1,127 left the country.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked capped the number of refugees ineligible for citizenship to be admitted at 5,000 (in addition to 20,000 who were in the country before war erupted). Amid a public outcry, however, she later announced that any relatives of Israelis will also be granted entry without a cap.

However, it remained unclear what proximity of relatives exactly would be acceptable.

The issue of Ukrainian refugees has been a highly contentious one in Israel. Shaked, with the support of many right-wing lawmakers, initially severely limited the number of refugees who could enter the country, and required the families of those coming in to put down large monetary deposits that would only be returned upon their exit from the country.

Some would-be entrants were kept waiting for hours and even days at the airport as well.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Ben Gurion International Airport, announcing new criteria for refugee admissions, March 13, 2022. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

In the face of a public outcry against these practices, as well as criticism from government ministers, the Interior Ministry first did away with the deposit requirement, and then arranged for the refugees to be accommodated at a hotel while their paperwork was processed.

Shaked first announced last week that Israel was preparing to take in 100,000 refugees who are eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, meaning people with at least one Jewish grandparent.

On Thursday, she reportedly caused further tumult over Israel’s refugee policy, after saying there would be “no chance” Israel would pay for medical insurance for refugees who have arrived in Israel.

Though the government has eased its policies on refugees, it has continued to face criticism for its handling of the issue.

The UN says more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees.

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