'Israel exercises insufficient oversight over visiting Jewish youth'

Children brought to Israel without government oversight and lacking a local legal guardian are vulnerable, report concludes.

Students at youth village521 (photo credit: Courtesy Meir Shfeya)
Students at youth village521
(photo credit: Courtesy Meir Shfeya)
Educational programs bringing Jewish children from abroad without their parents to study in Israel receive insufficient government oversight, this week’s State Comptroller’s report asserted.
Children under eighteen years of age are brought to Israel from several countries under the rubric of a number of organizations that provide their young charges with food, shelter and education while their parents live abroad. One such program is the Chabad hasidic group’s Children of Chernobyl, funded by the Welfare Ministry, which has been bringing Jewish children from Chernobyl in the Ukraine since the late 1980s.
A number of other programs bringing high school age students to Israel for a free education, such as the joint government-Jewish Agency run Na’aleh, were also mentioned in the report.
Some programs are not properly supervised, the comptroller asserted.
The Interior Ministry’s Population and Migration Authority (PIBA) is said to only gather the names of those arriving but not details such as as parental contact information or forms indicating the children’s location in Israel or how to contact them.
Na’aleh, which is run directly by the government, does provide an accurate accounting of this information.
Moreover, laws regarding the appointment of legal guardianship for the children during their stay here were not followed in many cases, the Comptroller’s office added.
PIBA is also reported to lack figures indicating the exact number of children who came to Israel without their parents, a situation which it indicated could conceivably cause laxity among their caretakers.
Between 2000 and 2011 the Welfare Ministry has provided Chabad with 18.5m Shekels to Children of Chernobyl, adding that the Ministry did not establish norms or criteria in order to for the provisioning of the needs of these children.
The failure of the ministry to continually monitor the children brought here by Chabad or other groups, it is alleged, led directly to the Welfare Ministry providing Chabad with financing for Children of Chernobyl participants even after they left the country and returned to their parents.
Despite the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs beginning the process of creating procedures for the reporting of entry and exit of such foreign youngsters back in 2007, the report noted, such recommendations were only finalized and brought to the head of PIBA last March. The Interior Minister approved the new guidelines in principle late last year but they have not yet been implemented.
Children brought to Israel without government oversight and lacking a local legal guardian are vulnerable, the report concluded, blaming the relevant agencies for failing to live up to their responsibilities.
PIBA and the Welfare Ministry must act without delay to implement guidelines for working with bodies bringing Jewish children here from abroad and to install control mechanisms for continuing oversight in order to remain up to date on the children’s statuses.
The Welfare Ministry failed, the comptroller alleged, in that it provided funding without concomitant oversight and some of the money received by Children of Chernobyl should be returned to the government.
The Comptroller also critiqued the Education Ministry for maintaining separate sets of criteria for inclusion in programs run under its auspices, such as Na’aleh, which provides a free high school education for Jews abroad, Neurim and Megamot.
Following a steep decline in the number of students participating in Na’aleh, the Ministry of Education’s Administration for Rural Education & Youth-Aliyah established Neurim, which began accepting students with behavioral problems and other issues that precluded their participation in Na’aleh.
The acceptance protocols for all such educational programs should be unified, the Comptroller’s report stated.