MKs advance bill granting immediate passports to immigrants
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MKs advance bill granting immediate passports to immigrants

Legislation, which police warn could make life easier for criminals, would eliminate year-long wait for travel documents

New immigrants from North America land at Israel's Ben Gurion airport after a Nefesh B'Nefesh chartered flight from New York, July 19, 2016. (Shahar Azran)
New immigrants from North America land at Israel's Ben Gurion airport after a Nefesh B'Nefesh chartered flight from New York, July 19, 2016. (Shahar Azran)

A bill that would entitle immigrants to Israel to receive passports immediately upon their arrival in the country passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.

The bill, proposed by Yisrael Beytenu MKs Oded Forer and Yulia Malinovsky, would do away with the current 12-month waiting period for a passport.

“In many countries it is accepted that a citizen has the right to obtain a passport when he or she receives citizenship of that country,” the lawmakers explained. “However, normally new immigrants [to Israel] only receive a temporary travel document with limited utility for the first year, rather than a passport.”

Forer said that the “current arrangement discriminates against immigrants and is incompatible with the global reality in which we live.”

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer in the Knesset on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer in the Knesset on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He pointed out that many new immigrants continue to work or run businesses in their countries of origin, requiring frequent trips back and forth.

The legislation is also designed to help immigrants who leave family members overseas. It would make it easier for them to visit and maintain contact with relatives who did not move to Israel with them.

Police objected to the proposed legislation, saying that issuing passports immediately could allow international criminals and oligarchs to abuse their Israeli citizenship, Haaretz reported.

“Today there is real concern that criminal elements from [former Soviet Union] states will again use the State of Israel and its national passport for improper purposes,” the Israel Police wrote to the lawmakers. “This may harm the well-being of the public and damage the country’s image in the modern world.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting in the Knesset on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting in the Knesset on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman strongly rejected the police recommendation, labeling it “racist” and “a hate crime” against new immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The bill was passed 48 to 28.

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