The draconian entry restrictions imposed by the Interior Ministry until Tuesday on non-Israeli relatives of Israeli citizens, even for crucial life-cycle events of their relatives, has caused great distress to thousands of olim living in the Jewish state.
Perhaps those worst affected were expectant mothers whose parents have been barred entry since January even for the birth of their grandchildren, during Israel’s third COVID-19 lockdown
Daniella Morgado was one, but her story has a happy ending thanks to Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and the dedicated work of her staff.
Morgado, 40, came to Israel from Chile seven years ago. She is 39-weeks pregnant with her first child, but has suffered from various complications leading to physical difficulties such as limited movement and shortness of breath. Hers is considered a high risk pregnancy.
Early March, Morgado’s parents, Emilio and Cynthia, applied to the Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry for an entry permit into Israel so they could assist their daughter and be there for her and their new grandchild after the birth.
For unexplained reasons, the Population and Immigration Authority deemed Daniella’s situation as not a critical humanitarian case and denied her parents’ entry requests - 16 times.
Mindful of a pending lockdown of Chile’s borders on April 5, Emilio and Cynthia boarded a flight to Paris on Monday, hoping to board the connecting flight to Ben-Gurion airport. The couple, vaccinated against COVID-19, filed a final entry permit request just before leaving Chile hoping it would be approved by the time they reached Paris. It wasn’t and they were not permitted to fly.
Efforts to secure permits by immigrant activist and former MK Dov Lipman and the director of the Itim organization, Rabbi Seth Farber, foundered.
Tamano Shata became aware of the situation and told her chief of staff Dror Offen to assist the couple.
“Drop everything and make sure her parents get into the country in the next 24 hours,” Offen said the minister told him.
Offen hoped to obtain the permits in time for the parents to board a flight from Paris on Monday night, but officials in the Population and Immigration Authority failed to expedite the request for the 17th time.
Emilio and Cynthia were therefore compelled to stay in an airport hotel overnight.
Offen resumed his efforts to get a permit for Tuesday’s afternoon flight in a race against time since their negative coronavirus PCR tests expired at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
If he failed, the couple would have to leave the airport to get new tests, which are a non-negotiable requirement for boarding a flight to Israel, and that would have required a seven-day quarantine period in Paris.
Since Daniella is 39-weeks pregnant, time was of the essence, and Offen decided to bypass the Population and Immigration Authority, contacting the director of the Aliyah Ministry’s logistics department at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The director utilized his professional contacts in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which also has the authority to approve entry permit requests in critical circumstances. Together with assistance from the Chilean community of Israel NGO, the permits were issued Tuesday afternoon - an hour too late for the afternoon flight.
The couple remained stranded in Charles De Gaulle airport; their coronavirus tests set to expire more than 90 minutes before the next flight.
Daniella then implored an El Al supervisor, responsible for boarding passengers with the appropriate paperwork, to put her parents on the flight. It worked and her parents boarded the night flight to Tel Aviv, arriving Wednesday morning.
“I felt really overwhelmed and confused by the situation. It was super stressful especially because my parents are elderly, I am pregnant, and I didn’t know what would happen,” said Daniella.
She could not understand why the Population and Immigration Authority did not consider her case to be a humanitarian priority, as she was in the third trimester of a high-risk pregnancy with only her husband for support.
“I feel very relieved now, I can breathe, I still cannot believe it,” Daniella said following reunion with her parents.
She expressed thanks to Lipman and Farber, and, in particular, Tamano-Shata and her staff for their help.
“I really appreciate that in the end I was helped by people in government who gave assistance on a personal level.”