Report Shows Some Ukrainian Refugees Denied Entry in Israel due to Translation Error

Reports on Wednesday revealed that there were some Ukrainian refugees who had been denied entry to Israel because of a translation error in a question on the entry forms. This blunder occurred in the midst of the criticism directed towards the response of the Israeli government towards the incoming refugees from the war-torn country, both those who are non-Jewish and those who have Jewish ancestry needed under the Law of Return for acquiring Israeli citizenship. The occasional infighting within the government, backtracking and unclear policies has also affected the handling of the issue.

According to the report, it is possible that hundreds of people were denied entry into Israel because of a mistake that happened when the forms were translated into Ukrainian from Hebrew. In Ukrainian, the question asks the refugees if they have stayed in Israel previously, while the original question in Hebrew asked whether they had stayed in Israel illegally. Of course, a number of refugees responded positively to the question, unwittingly admitting that they had previously stayed in the country illegally, making it certain that they would be denied entry. There was no response from the Population and Immigration Authority about the error.

On Wednesday, officials disclosed that about 1,233 people from Ukraine had arrived within the last 24 hours at the Ben Gurion Airport, but 11 of them were not permitted to come through. On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine and since then, more than 10,000 refugees from Ukraine have already come to Israel. The Immigration and Absorption Ministry stated that of this total, there were 2,800 people who were eligible for Israeli citizenship, as per the rules of the Law of Return. 944 of the people have already left the country. Previously, Israel’s handling of the Ukrainian refugees had resulted in outrage.

Some of the refugees were made to wait for hours at the airport, or even days before it resulted in criticism. They were then moved to a hotel on the orders of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. There was also a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, which disclosed that the refugee policy of the country remained unclear, along with its implementation. Last week, Shaked had first announced that Israel would welcome 100,000 people who were eligible for immigration under the Law of Return. But, the number of non-Jewish refugees was capped at 25,000, 20,000 of whom were already present in Israel even before the war began.

This resulted in public outcry, prompting Shaked to announce that people with Israeli relatives would also be allowed into the country. However, they did not clarify the kind of relatives that were acceptable. Ministers decided on Wednesday that those who do not qualify for immigration would be dealt with by the Social Ministry. These displaced people will be provided humanitarian aid for about 3 months and the government has set aside NIS 15 million for this purpose. They will extend state services, if they are given formal refugee status, or the fighting does not stop. They will establish and inter-ministerial administration for the program’s oversight. 

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