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Some Ukrainian refugee families getting kicked out of absorption hotels — report

Landlords reportedly reluctant to rent to new immigrants due to lack of income; Immigration Ministry says everyone will be taken care of

Ukrainian immigrants to Israel who fled fighting in Ukraine arrive on a rescue flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Ukrainian immigrants to Israel who fled fighting in Ukraine arrive on a rescue flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A number of Ukrainian families who immigrated to Israel following Russia’s invasion have been asked to vacate a Jerusalem hotel where they had been staying, and are having difficulty finding landlords who will rent to them, according to a Tuesday report.

According to Kan news, the families were asked to leave the hotel immediately, after some stayed there for around a month. Some were informed of the eviction by letters at their door.

The report did not say why the families were told to leave, or whether others had been allowed to stay.

The immigrants, who qualify for Israeli citizenship under the law of return, said they cannot find permanent housing, even though they receive a state grant to help them cover rent, because landlords require they have collateral or income.

“We have nowhere to go. We tried to talk to our absorption coordinator about it. We tried asking him if maybe someone from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry can meet with us, see our situation, see the situation of all the families,” one of the immigrants said. “But no one wants to meet with us or give us a helping hand. We’re worried, counting down the days. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe we’ll end up on the street.”

She said landlords don’t want to rent to new immigrants because they’re worried they won’t be able to come through with the rent, even when families provide guarantors, security checks and documents from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry showing they receive a grant for rent.

A volunteer who works with the Ukrainians in the hotel said, “The ones who are staying in the hotel are parents with kids, the elderly and the sick. It’s the hardest for them to find an apartment.”

He said the volunteers helped one mother secure an apartment near Haifa, but it was empty and unfurnished, without beds, so they’d asked for a little more time at the hotel to prepare the apartment. They were refused.

The families are mostly headed by single mothers or the elderly, since most men stayed back in Ukraine to fight.

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

Since the start of the war in late February, Israel has taken in over 20,000 immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and other nearby countries, housing many in hotels when they arrive.

Hundreds of people help them, including workers from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and volunteers, to help get them acclimated.

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata has said the immigrants will not be evicted from hotels with nowhere to go. The ministry provides the immigrants with rent assistance and help finding permanent housing, a one-time stipend, plus an “absorption basket” with other benefits that continue for at least a year.

The ministry said in response to the Kan story that they were checking into the situation and that everyone who leaves the hotel will have suitable housing. Some of the immigrants in the hotel did not respond to the ministry’s housing offers, the ministry said, adding that the hotel was intended to house the new arrivals for only a month, and some had been there for two.

Over 28,000 Ukrainians have entered Israel since the start of the war, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Thousands more were already in Israel when the war broke out.

On Monday, the Interior Ministry said it will automatically extend the tourist visas of Ukrainian citizens who do not qualify for citizenship and are currently in Israel through June 30 and allow them to work. The Interior Ministry’s Monday decision will affect around 15,000 refugees, Haaretz reported.

The arrivals stirred up ongoing controversy when they first came to Israel, as the government struggled to agree on the number of refugees it would allow in who were not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, and the policies for their time in Israel.

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