MKs demand to know why immigrants' families still can't enter Israel

The policy allowing families of immigrants to enter Israel was supposed to be approved last week.

New immigrants from France disembark at Ben-Gurion Airport last year (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
New immigrants from France disembark at Ben-Gurion Airport last year
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Population and Immigration Authority has not yet approved a policy that would allow families of new immigrants who have been in Israel for up to four years to enter the country, even though it agreed to do so last Wednesday.
Members of the Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee on Tuesday sent a letter to Population and Immigration Authority director-general Shlomo Mor-Yosef requesting transparency on why the agreement has not yet been approved.
“Having made a commitment, as described publicly in the Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee by chairman David Bitan to create this policy within a month, it is extremely disappointing that there has been no transparency or accountability by the government authorities as to this delay,” MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh (Blue and White) said in the letter.
“The important health guidelines detailed by the Health Ministry that will, of course, continue to apply do not preclude the need for the Immigration Authority to create holistic and transparent policy as was agreed and declared upon,” she wrote. “I am committed to continuing to raise the voices of olim [immigrants] who are anxiously awaiting the opportunity and need to be reunited with their families and loved ones.”
The letter calls for the policy to be instatuted immediately.
In November, Bitan announced that the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority had decided to approve the committee’s request for such visits to replace a patchwork of various exemptions on the ban of foreign nationals entering the country since the COVID-19 crisis broke out.
However, Bitan was diagnosed with coronavirus in early December and was then connected to an ECMO machine. At the time, his family and health officials described his situation as stable but serious.
MKs have received dozens of inquiries from families of new immigrants since the decision to approve the new policy was made. Some immigrant families have bought plane tickets, and despite not having seen family members in months, they have not yet flown, according to the letter.
Under the new measures, parents, grandparents, siblings and children of any new immigrant will be able to enter Israel for a visit from this date.
Implementing the policy is crucial due to the needs of families who are experiencing extreme loneliness amid the pandemic, the letter says. Not only do they have to deal with social isolation in Israel, they are also not able to see their own families, it says.
In some cases, new grandparents have not yet met their grandchildren who have been born since Israel closed its skies at the beginning of the pandemic outbreak. It was due to this that a discussion was held, and a decision to approve the policy was initially made.
Following the approval, there will be a formal application protocol to obtain the entry permit for relatives of immigrants through the Interior Ministry, the details of which have yet to be delineated.
The policy would adhere to Health Ministry regulations. On Sunday, the ministry closed the skies to all foreign nationals, but it updates its decisions according to changing circumstances. It is unclear how the policy would coincide with Health Ministry regulations.
According to Israeli law, new immigrants are defined as having immigrated within a 10-year time frame. But the policy is specific to families of immigrants within four years of making aliyah, which according to the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, applies to some 125,000 people.
The decision to place limits on the families follows pushback from the Population and Immigration Authority, which is concerned about foreign nationals entering the country during the pandemic.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.