The Refugee Rights Forum in Israel join the public outcry calling for a change in policy concerning refugees from Ukraine – both the refugees asking to enter Israel and those who are already here.
The quota set by The Minister of Interior, in addition to the prohibition of even boarding a flight to Israel without the written approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together mean that Israel is practically shutting its gates in refugees’ faces. This written approval requirement is equivalent to a visa requirement. This means that Israel is imposing a new visa requirement during wartime. No refugee running for their lives will be able to enter the country, not even those who have family and friends residing here.
As for the policy concerning the few refugees who already managed to find their way into Israel – it is nothing short of outrageous. Protection from deportation is a vital step towards granting refuge to those in need, but without any basic social services and rights it is simply not enough. Many of the refugees fled from their homes without any possessions or any means to provide for themselves in the next three months (until they will finally be eligible to receive a work permit). It will be difficult for those who are ill or pregnant to receive medical insurance, as private insurance companies do not normally cover “pre-existing medical conditions”. Some refugees will not be able to make the payments towards private insurance at all.
Canada, The United States and The European Union have made it clear that any Ukrainian refugee will receive a work permit alongside additional ad hoc rights. Israel must join these countries and ensure that refugees are granted access to healthcare, accommodation, and means of subsistence. These are the basics that, if granted, also offer the best protection from trafficking and other types of exploitation.
Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers have been in Israel under a policy of Temporary Protection for over a decade. They still have almost no rights. The crisis in Ukraine offers an opportunity for our country to change course and to solidate a clear, transparent policy of protection, true to our country’s legal, moral, and historical obligations.
Israel must remove the excessive obstacles which those running for their lives face and grant all refugees actual protection which includes basic social rights.