Many reports have come out forecasting a major influx in immigrants to Israel this year, yet despite being forewarned, government organizations handling the matter "may not be financially equipped" warned the Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee on Wednesday.
The warning came during a talk discussing budget cuts of Nativ, an independent administrative unit in the Prime Minister's Office that is in charge of determining the eligibility to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) from the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe, based on the Law of Return.
According to Higher Education Minister MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), who is in charge of Nativ, the organization's 2015 budget was NIS 80 million, while the current budget is only NIS 56 million.
MK Alex Kushnir (Yisrael Beitenu), former acting director of Nativ, warned that “with such a budget the organization will not be able to function, and this means, unequivocally, that people who are eligible to make Aliyah will not be able to arrive in Israel.
Despite all the complications that the unprecedented public health crisis has caused around the world, and in some instances because of them, record-breaking numbers of people in the Diaspora are now applying to make aliyah.
With the sharp increase in immigration projected amid the coronavirus pandemic, groups like Nefesh B'Nefesh – a nonprofit focused on bolstering Israel-Diaspora ties and immigration to Israel – have alerted the Knesset that they should expect around 250,000 new immigrants over the next 3-5 years.
In light of the forecasted immigration wave within the next few years, Committee Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) called for the need to bolster supporting budgets and infrastructure, saying that an additional NIS 10 million should be added to Nativ's budget.
He additionally urged the committee to consider shortening the time it takes to process immigration requests. Currently such requests are processed in roughly four months. Nativ Director Neta Briskin-Peleg told the committee that, “there are no shortcuts in checking eligibility. It is a complex, gentle (process) that takes time." During the process, she explained, Nativ also has to deal with the “document forging industry." Elkin added that even prior to the corona crisis, people would have to wait about six months for an appointment at the Israeli Embassy in Moscow to check their eligibility for immigration. This means that," anyone who decides to make aliyah will be able to actually do it only a year from now," he said. Elkin additionally warned that the long waiting period could change the mind of an immigrant deciding to arrive. Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.