Immigration minister to head to Ethiopia to review airlift preparations

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata will travel to Ethiopia on Saturday night, ahead of the airlifting of 2,000 new immigrants from the war-torn country within the next two months, her office says.

Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopia-born minister in Israel’s history, will be accompanied by representatives from the Jewish Agency.

Thousands of people with Jewish roots are waiting in Ethiopia to come to Israel, but the government has approved the airlifting of just 2,000 in January, despite the pandemic and the recent outbreak of a war in the northern Tigray region.

Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata welcomes new immigrants to Israel on August 3, 2020. (Shlomi Amsalem)

Some 9,000 have been waiting for 15 or more years to immigrate, local activists say. About a quarter of that number, located in the capital Addis Ababa, have been waiting for more than 20 years, they say, while the rest, in Gondar city, have been hanging on for 15 to 20 years.

“Unfortunately, many in the community are waiting, are living in difficult conditions and their situation has worsened due to the coronavirus crisis,” says Tamano-Shata in a statement. “It is moving for me to reunite families that have been separated for many years, and I plan to implement… the government’s decision [to airlift 2,000] as quickly as possible.”