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Over 5,000 immigrants have arrived in Israel from Eastern Europe since war’s start

President Herzog welcomes new immigrants staying at Jerusalem hotel, while dozens gather outside home of Interior Minister Shaked to protest refugee policy

Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine arrive at the Israeli immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport, March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine arrive at the Israeli immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport, March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

More than 5,000 new immigrants from Ukraine “and its environs” have arrived in Israel since the start of the Russian invasion, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry announced on Thursday.

According to the ministry, some 60-65 percent of the 5,070 immigrants — around 3,000 people — that arrived in Israel as of Thursday afternoon were from Ukraine. The rest were said to be from Russia and Belarus.

Another 400 immigrants from Ukraine were due to land in Israel later on Thursday.

President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, went to the Caesar Hotel in Jerusalem on Thursday to greet the new immigrants temporarily residing there.

Accompanied by Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, the president listened to their experiences fleeing the war-torn country.

“Tomorrow looks difficult, because your world has turned upside down,” Herzog told them.

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal meeting Ukrainian immigrants in the Caesar Hotel in Jerusalem, March 17, 2022. (KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

“But we are proving again that the People of Israel are alive, and when the People of Israel are alive, they can confront any challenge and embrace their brothers and sisters everywhere. The Jewish Agency, the Jewish world, and Israeli society are all coming on board to help. As the president of the State of Israel, together with my wife Michal, we welcome you with open arms and wish you great success. Welcome to Israel!”

Also on Thursday, dozens of demonstrators gathered near the home of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to protest the country’s refugee policy.

There has been rising criticism of the refugee policy, from both within and outside the government, particularly regarding caps on the numbers of refugees not eligible for citizenship being allowed into Israel, as well as their treatment.

The UN estimates that more than three million Ukrainians have fled across the border since the war began on February 24.

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