19.02.23, Bar Peleg, Haaretz
The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, Mathijs Le Rutte, expressed his fear for the future of the Ukrainians who had fled to Israel, six months after taking up the post at the height of the refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
Now, one year into the war, he shares with Haaretz his concerns over the way Israel is treating the Ukrainian refugees, and emphasizes that the lack of consistency toward them creates many difficulties and prevents them from receiving basic rights and living with dignity.
According to figures from the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, since the outbreak of the war between Russia and Ukraine, more than 50,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Israel, some of whom claim the right to aliyah based on the Law of Return. Some 15,000 of them remain.
Every month the Population and Immigration Authority extends the refugees’ visas and they stay in the country as part of the policy of temporary non-repatriation. As long as they remain, the administration in charge of their cases in the Welfare Ministry grants them limited social rights.
The flood of refugees to Israel compelled it for the first time to deal with a huge number of people seeking entry through its main gateway, Ben-Gurion International Airport.
As opposed to the entry of African asylum seekers through holes in the fence along the Egyptian border, the arrival of refugees through the airport allowed Israel to regulate the number of people coming in as it wished and decide how to deal with them. But decisions change frequently, there is a considerable lack of consistency, and the ones who pay the price are the refugees fleeing from the horrors of war.
The outcome is that Israel treats the Ukrainian refugees, which it calls by the whitewashed term “escapees from war,” much like the African asylum seekers: Granting them temporary protection from deportation and pushes them out slowly but surely.
According to UN figures, 8 million refugees have been documented in various countries in Europe, about 5 million of whom have been granted temporary protection in these countries. Other than these, there are still about 5 million refugees internally displaced in Ukraine.