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Israel tries to send 14 Ukrainians back to Europe, relents after pressure

Interior Minister Shaked reportedly takes a deposit from group to make sure they leave Israel within three months

Refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine arrive at the Medyka border crossing in Poland, on Monday, February 28, 2022. The head of the United Nations refugee agency says more than half a million people had fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Thursday. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine arrive at the Medyka border crossing in Poland, on Monday, February 28, 2022. The head of the United Nations refugee agency says more than half a million people had fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Thursday. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Israel tried to send 14 out of 70 Ukrainians who arrived in the country back to Europe, saying they were not eligible to enter under the Law of Return, according to a Monday report.

The 14, including a mother and her young daughter, were put on a flight to Romania, but were ultimately allowed to stay after family members pressured the government, Channel 12 news reported.

According to Israeli law, Jews, their children, grandchildren, and spouses are eligible for citizenship.

Even though the group was allowed to stay, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ordered that they give the government a deposit of thousands of shekels to ensure that they leave within three months, the report said.

A government source told Channel 12 that they are not considered refugees because they are entitled to stay in any country in Europe.

Israel has rarely granted refugee status to non-Jews in the past, including to thousands of asylum seekers from Africa that arrived in the mid to late 2000s.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian asylum-seekers came to Israel following the 2014 war with Russia. Most came as tourists and tried to stay as refugees, but were rarely granted refugee status.

Some Ethiopians with Jewish backgrounds have also struggled to move to Israel.

The Jewish Agency has received thousands of inquiries from Ukrainian citizens in recent days about immigrating to Israel.

Ukraine has about 43,300 people who self-identify as Jews and about 200,000 eligible to immigrate to Israel under its Law of Return for Jews and their relatives, according to a 2020 demographic study of European Jewry.

Shortly before Russia’s invasion, dozens of new immigrants from Ukraine arrived in Israel.

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