High Court: Israel can’t put limit on Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised ruling.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s High Court on Sunday overturned an Interior Ministry ruling which had placed a limit on the number of Ukrainian refugees entering the country, earning praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The court said that since Ukrainians do not need visas to visit Israel for up to three months, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked did not have the right to cap the number of those who wanted to enter due to the Russian invasion of their country.

Shaked placed the cap on refugees in March.

Zelensky tweeted his gratitude to the court for abolishing the restrictions, saying “The rule of law and respect for human rights is exactly what distinguishes a true, developed democracy.”

Fearing a huge – and permanent – influx of Ukrainians who were not eligible to become citizens under Israel’s Right of Return, Shaked had said that only 5,000 could come, while the approximately 20,000 Ukrainians already in the country either on tourist visas or illegally, could stay.

There was no limit placed on entry of Ukrainians who were automatically eligible for Israeli citizenship – those who have at least one Jewish grandparent.

Any exceptions to the visa waiver would have to be codified in law first, the court said, while also noting that on a practical level, the fear was not coming true, as some 4,400 Ukrainians who had entered at the start of the war had already left by May 8.

The government unsuccessfully argued that expecting any changes to the law in the middle of an election period was unrealistic, and that the state should have some kind of limits in place because the situation could change suddenly during the ongoing war.

The Tomer Warshaw firm that had filed the appeal against the state on behalf of Ukraine shortly after the Interior Ministry announced the order, was happy with the win.

“We are very satisfied that the High Court accepted our claims and ruled that the interior minister acted against the provisions of the law,” the firm said in a statement. “We are happy that Ukrainian citizens, who are still in the war, can find quiet in Israel alongside their family and friends.”

The Interior Ministry had relaxed the quota numbers while the case was still ongoing, to allow entry to those with looser familial connections in Israel. Some 33,000 refugees have been allowed to enter until now.

Of those, about 6,000 have taken advantage of the Right of Return to become citizens, with nearly 5,000 others in the midst of the bureaucratic process.