Exemptions for Russian, Ukrainian refugees in Israel leads to fraud - policy center

Israeli Immigration Policy Center urges a special visa to allow immigrants from former Soviet Union countries to secure legal migration documents at a later date.

 Ukrainian refugees arrive in Israel on February 9, 2023 (photo credit: AVISHAG SHAAR-YASHUV/IFCJ)
Ukrainian refugees arrive in Israel on February 9, 2023

The Israeli Immigration Policy Center recently released a demand that Director General of Israel's Population and Immigration Authority Eyal Siso stop the exemption of document collection for Ukrainians and Russians gaining Israeli citizenship.

In the coming week, relief procedures put in place to help assimilate refugees from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus coming to Israel following the Russia-Ukraine war are set to expire. As a result, the Israeli Immigration Policy Center requested that the "blanket exemption" awarded to these immigrants would no longer be relevant, even if migrating under the Law of Return from the former Soviet Union.

Many of these citizens were not required to provide original documents and apostilles, which are required for Israel's new immigrants from all other nations.

Dr. Yona Sharki, an attorney associated with the policy center, sent a letter to Siso citing Population and Immigration Authority data that listed the three countries and Georgia as primary providers of illegal residents entering Israel.

Sharki's letter and the center argued that allowing some to bypass requirements for legal residency due to global circumstances opens the door to more opportunities for fraud when emergencies arise.

"From the many procedures for denying citizenship carried out by the Population Authority, it appears that the citizens of these countries have indeed abused loopholes in the system in a significant number of cases," the letter stated. "Accordingly, the fear that the citizens of these countries will seek to take advantage of the state of emergency to fraudulently obtain status in Israel is very real."

Immigration issues for refugees from former Soviet Union nations

According to the center, despite the state of emergency, those entitled to the Law of Return who wish to immigrate to Israel must be able to do so.

"The decision to facilitate the production of verified and official documents, for those seeking to immigrate to Israel, is part of a general humanitarian policy advocated by the State of Israel since its founding. However, in light of the above data, it is not possible to grant citizenship to those who have not produced at least the official and verified documents as required."

As a result, the center urged a temporary visa for those who are eligible for aliyah but unable to gain the right documents.

"This visa grants all the social rights granted to citizens, including election to local authorities, with the exception of the right to vote for the Knesset. When the immigrant obtains all the documents and presents them to the authority, he will then be able to receive full Israeli citizenship."