Largest French aliya flight of the summer lands in Israel, July 20, 2016.
(photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)
The Health Ministry has promised to examine the obstacles faced by French medical- school graduates wanting to do their residency in Israel, the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee said on Monday following a discussion it hosted on the issue.
“The problem of employment is the central factor behind the decline of the number of immigrants from France,” said committee chairman Avraham Neguise.
Data released by the Jewish Agency and Immigrant Absorption Ministry at the end of last year found that there were some 5,000 French immigrants who moved to Israel in 2016, 2,900 less than in 2015, when France topped the aliya chart with almost 8,000 new immigrants.
Responding to these numbers, Qualita, the umbrella organization for French immigrants, flagged the issues of employment and certification as the main cause of the decline, noting that thousands of qualified French nurses are still unable to work in Israel because their certifications are not recognized.
Neguise observed that immigrants find it very hard to meet the standards of the licensing exams in Israel. “Many of them are recognized in all EU countries and can start working there immediately, but not in Israel,” he said.
Upon moving to Israel, French olim face language barriers that make it very difficult to pass Israeli certification tests that are available only in Hebrew. French olim also have problems getting their degrees recognized in Israel because the structure of higher education in France is different from the Anglo-American model followed in Israel.
Neguise said that immigrants requesting to take exams for residency in professions such as occupational therapy are not permitted to, and are sometimes forced to turn to the courts in order to even be able to take the exams. When they do get that permission, Neguise said, the chances of passing are slim. In 2014, only 36.5% of foreign graduates succeeded in meeting the licensing exams for occupational therapy; this figure included Israelis who studied abroad.
Prof. Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, responded that according to the law, students who complete their medical degrees abroad are required to be examined in order to do their residency in Israel. Those who are already doctors are exempt, however in France, unlike every other country in the world, medical students are required to pass their residency before receiving their degree.
Therefore, those who come before their residency are obligated to pass the test in Israel.
Afek promised to reexamine this policy, but said the way to solve the issue is through mutual recognition of degrees.
Attorney Ariel Erlich, from the Kohelet Policy Forum, agreed that France’s situation is unique, but pointed out that all EU countries, the US and Canada accept medical school graduates for residency. He called for a change in Israel policy that would allow for French medical grad students to do their residencies in Israel.
MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) said that “absorption mistakes are repeating themselves from the large aliya from the Former Soviet Union in the early 90s, despite the shortage in doctors and nurses in Israel.”
Leah Elbaz, representing immigrants in the Bar Association, stressed that Israeli law requires medical education but not residency, therefore there is no reason why the latter cannot be completed in Israel.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.