Israel to open refugee camps in Finland, Azerbaijan for Russian Jews

Jewish Agency to host Russian immigration camps in Finland and Azerbaijan * Israeli government approved NIS 90 million in funding for absorption.

The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Israeli government approved on Sunday a proposal to expedite the immigration of Russians who qualify under the Law of Return.

The proposal by the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, in conjunction with the Finance Ministry, for a new emergency plan for the absorption of Russian olim, was drafted by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.

Due to recent developments in Russia, tens of thousands of aliyah candidates are expected to arrive in Israel in the coming months. According to the decision, until an individual’s eligibility under the Law of Return is clarified, they will receive the rights that all immigrants are given, including an absorption package and subsistence allowance. This decision is based on the previous waves of aliyah from Ukraine, during which it was proven that over 90% were found to be eligible.

In addition, it is expected to provide a holistic response in a variety of areas, including housing, employment, health, education and more. The Finance Ministry will immediately allocate NIS 90 million, will monitor developments and allocate additional resources as needed.

Ukraine-Russia War sparks massive aliyah wave to Israel

According to the estimates of the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, a very significant increase in immigration is expected due to the Russian-Ukrainian war. According to the ministry, since the invasion of Ukraine in February, over 40,000 new immigrants have arrived, approximately 24,000 of them from Russia. This is the most significant wave in two decades.

In addition, the government authorized the Jewish Agency to establish temporary camps in Finland and Azerbaijan for Russian Jews who seek to immigrate to Israel. These camps will work like the camps in Romania and Poland for Ukrainian refugees. Jewish Agency officials told The Jerusalem Post that it will establish a mechanism to assist Jewish Russian olim.

 Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Agency chairman Doron Almog said at the meeting that since there is a shortage of hotel rooms in Israel, he is willing to re-open absorption centers as needed. The idea would be to invest in renovating these old buildings and to allow Russian olim to live there for a specific time. Almog’s idea is to create programs for employment, job placement and social absorption of olim that will be powered by Israeli volunteers.

THE FUNDS ALLOCATED for the reception of emergency immigrants from Russia and Ukraine, of which NIS 200 million have been invested so far, were directed towards Ukrainian Jews. “We need another NIS 300 million for activity in the next six months,” he said. The agency forecasts up to 6,000 immigrants per month in the next half a year or 36,000 immigrants. Almog called upon the government to invest in this effort.

“The State of Israel is a safe and protected home for all the Jews of the world, as well as for the Jews of Russia.”

Israeli Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata

“The State of Israel is a safe and protected home for all the Jews of the world, as well as for the Jews of Russia.” Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, said.

“We will make sure that all olim from Russia who immigrate under these complex circumstances will receive the holistic package that is appropriate for optimal integration into Israeli society. I congratulate Liberman for his cooperation and promotion of the program.”

Liberman added, “The State of Israel is making every effort to bring as many immigrants to Israel as possible.” He said that the Finance Ministry “will not spare any resources to enable the immigration to Israel of all eligible people who want it and will invest in a high-quality and efficient absorption process.”

“The government isn’t taking Russian aliyah seriously,” said activists promoting aliyah and absorption of olim from the Former Soviet Union. The Million Lobby, an organization representing young Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel, have launched a campaign calling on Prime Minister Yair Lapid to “wake up” and understand the magnitude of the failure to absorb these olim.

“Instead of Prime Minister Lapid setting up an urgent national committee to promote the absorption of Russian aliyah and investing hundreds of millions, this [subject] unfortunately does not interest him,” The Million Lobby CEO Alex Riff told the Post on Sunday.

She argued that the NIS 90 million budgeted by the government for the emergency aliyah is too small and not relevant to the long term difficulties of immigration. “The budgets are spent in the wrong places,” she said, explaining that the current small budget offers solutions for the first period in Israel, “not long term.”

“The absolute majority of the immigrants still haven’t found a job, certainly not in their profession,” she said of the more than 40,000 olim who have arrived since February from Ukraine and Russia.

Liberman is the chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, whose main constituents are olim from Russian-speaking countries. Until recently, Liberman hasn’t been very vocal about the Russian-Ukrainian war.

As published by the Post, some 55,000 eligible Russians are waiting for the green light, an Israeli source said last week, adding that about 40,000 Russians have received immigration visas and another 15,000 are in the process of receiving them. The source added that approximately 70,000 Russian Jews and Russians eligible to immigrate according to Israel’s Law of Return are currently living in poverty in countries neighboring Russia and Ukraine.