Ukrainian official raps Israel’s refugee policy

Ukraine is considering canceling the visa-free agreement with Israel.

 Ukraine refugees wait at stations close to the border (photo credit: AY Moldova)
Ukraine refugees wait at stations close to the border
(photo credit: AY Moldova)

Israel must immediately allow in all Ukrainians who want to enter, in accordance with the countries’ visa-free agreement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Chief-of-Staff Andriy Yermak said on Tuesday.

“The recent decisions of the Israeli leadership aimed at restricting the admission of Ukrainians, to put it mildly, are surprising,” Yermak wrote on Facebook. “We consider the suspension of visa-free travel and the introduction of the system of electronic permits of the [Interior Ministry] to enter Israel to be an unfriendly step for the citizens of Ukraine, which needs to be corrected immediately.”

Ukraine is considering canceling the visa-free agreement with Israel, Interfax-Ukraine reported on Tuesday, citing an anonymous source arguing that Israel reneged on its side of the agreement.

Yermak thanked Israel for its efforts to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, but warned that Kyiv “will react harshly and promptly to any steps that harm the interests of Ukraine and Ukrainians. I will remind all our partners: Your peoples have long and clearly shown and said what you need to do. See and hear your constituents. They made their choice. They support Ukraine. They are with us. And you?”

The remarks and report came after the Interior Ministry announced that Ukrainians visiting Israel would have to fill out a special form before entering the country. The form asks Ukrainians to declare whether they are arriving at the invitation of an Israeli citizen, and wait for a response from the Interior Ministry before entering Israel.

 Israelis protest in support of Ukrainian refugees in Israel, March 12, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Israelis protest in support of Ukrainian refugees in Israel, March 12, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Sunday that in addition to Ukrainian Jews and their descendants qualified to immigrate to Israel, any Ukrainians with friends and family will be allowed to enter and seek refuge until the war ends. A limited number without ties to Israel would also be allowed in.

The new policy came after Shaked had previously said only 25,000 Ukrainians – regardless of their ties to Israel – would be allowed in.