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Israel’s immigration minister to visit Ukraine to spur aliyah efforts

Pnina Tamano-Shata will be the second Israeli minister to visit the country since Russia invaded, will also travel to Israeli field hospital in western Ukraine, her office says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (front left) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz meet Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (front left) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz meet Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata will travel to Ukraine on Thursday night to meet with the Israeli officials processing Ukrainian refugees’ immigration requests, her office said.

Tamano-Shata will be the second Israeli minister to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in late February, after Health Minister Nitzan Horovitz traveled to the country last week to visit an Israeli field hospital that was set up in western Ukraine.

The minister will spend most of her time in towns on Ukraine’s border with Poland, where masses of refugees are being sheltered. During the visit, she will meet with a number of officials from Israeli and Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Agency, which processes immigration requests; the United Israel Appeal, which has funded many of the flights taking immigrants to Israel; and Nativ, a governmental organization that reviews the eligibility of potential immigrants.

Earlier this week, Tamano-Shata said at a press conference that the purpose of her trip was to encourage further immigration and address a growing backlog of Ukrainian refugees stuck in temporary housing in cities near the border.

“There is a certain slowdown in arrivals of new immigrants. We’ll see how to deal with the issue,” she said at a press conference at the airport on Monday.

Tamano-Shata also appeared to take a swipe at the Finance Ministry, complaining that the budget to assist the more than 10,000 new immigrants who have reached Israel in recent weeks has not arrived.

“There’s a feeling that the ministry has one hand tied behind its back and the necessary funding still hasn’t been released,” she said.

During her trip, Tamano-Shata will meet with a number of Ukrainian refugees waiting to immigrate to Israel. In addition, she is slated to visit the Israeli field hospital in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian flag hangs at a schoolhouse that has been converted into a field hospital, in Mostyska, western Ukraine, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

“This is a complicated emergency situation that requires us to ensure that at every stop on their way home, the new immigrants receive fast, sensitive, and warm treatment from our people in the field who are working under difficult conditions in a time of war,” Tamano-Shata said before boarding her flight.

Thousands of Ukrainians have immigrated to Israel since Russia launched its offensive on February 24, with dozens or hundreds arriving each day. Larger than normal amounts of immigrants from Russia and Belarus have also arrived in recent weeks. Tens of thousands more immigrants from the former Soviet Union are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and months, according to Israeli officials.

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