High Court will Hear Petition against Cap on Refugees
On Monday, the High Court of Justice rejected a request from the state of throwing out the petition made against the country’s policy applicable to Ukrainian refugees. Instead, it announced that the petition would be heard in a week. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked had announced on Sunday night that people fleeing due to the Russian operation and having relatives in Israel would not fall under the cap of 25,000 that had been imposed on non-Jewish refugees from Ukraine, who are not eligible for citizenship. This move came after there had been a significant amount of criticism of the refugee policy of the government, not just from outside sources, but from inside as well.
However, it was not made clear as to what number of refugees will now be accepted by Israel. Attorney Tomer Warsha had chosen to file the petition to the High Court against the policy of the interior minister. On Saturday, a letter was published by Yevgen Korniychuk, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel, in which he said that the petition was also being backed by Ukraine. This prompted Shaked to announce a change in the policy. Last week, she had said that Israel would not accept more than 5,000 refugees from Ukraine from the beginning of the war, who don’t meet the eligibility criteria for Israeli citizenship.
She said that they would be permitted to stay in Israel, along with 20,000 other Ukrainian people who had already been in Israel even before the war began. Reports had shown on Sunday that they had already surpassed the cap of 5,000 placed on Ukrainian refugees. On Sunday morning, the Population and Border Authority revealed statistics showing that since February 24th, when the Russian attack began, about 7,179 people have come to Israel from Ukraine, and 221 of them have been denied entry.
These numbers include those who qualify for citizenship in Israel because they meet the requirement of the Law of Return of having at least one Jewish grandparent. Specializing in Immigration, the attorney behind the petition, Warsha said that while Shaked’s change in policy was a positive one, it just wasn’t enough. Reports indicated that the state had asked the court to throw out the petition because they would not hit the refugee cap for about a week more under the new policy, which made the issue irrelevant. Gideon Sa’ar, the Justice Minister, said that he was in support of Shaked’s change in the policy.
However, he was not in agreement with the use of the term ‘refugees’ because he said that it has ‘legal ramifications’. He said that they were providing shelter to those people who require it because it is the humane thing to do and they had been doing this for two weeks now. It was reported on Sunday that maintaining a refugee cap would lead to legal difficulties because of a visa waiver agreement that Israel has made with Ukraine. Pnina Tamano-Shata, the Immigration Minister, said on Monday that the policy change from Shaked was right.