Zulat submitted this position paper to the Knesset Interior Committee ahead of a special discussion on the government’s policy with regard to refugees from Ukraine. We believe that the latest plan published by the government, titled “Policy for Entry Into Israel of Foreign Nationals Fleeing the War in Ukraine,” is illegal and immoral. The plan violates the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention to which Israel is a signatory and fails to address many important issues. Our position consists of seven points:
1. Israel has an obligation to accept asylum seekers from Ukraine without setting any quota limits.
2. Refrain from posing bureaucratic obstacles to Ukrainians seeking to come to Israel and do not not require them to obtain prior approval for entering the country.
3. Refrain from sending refugees back to Ukraine before the situation there stabilizes.
4. Treat refugees with sensitivity, and be particularly attentive to questions of gender, age, health, and disability.
5. Refrain from placing refugees in detention.
6. Allow refugees to secure a dignified living during their stay in Israel.
7. Stop giving priority to refugees with relatives in Israel.
With regard to clause 4, it should be noted that most of the asylum seekers are women and children. Make sure that they have not been assaulted or exploited on their way here (e.g., sexual assault and exploitation, domestic violence, etc.), provide any necessary treatment according to what is customary in Israel, and allow them to keep in touch with other women, etc. To the extent possible, assign women in charge of their dealings with the authorities.
Children should be treated in accordance with Israel’s commitment under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the best interest of the child as the leading principle. Questions of deportation – or allowing them to stay in Israel – should be guided by this principle. In addition, children should be given access to age-appropriate educational and physical activities, familiar food, suitable developmental and preventive medical care (e.g., immunization, treatment of developmental problems, etc.), as well as emotional support if necessary. Unaccompanied minors should be cared for by the welfare authorities and should be placed under suitable custody (foster care or adoption, as need be). To the extent possible, avoid outside-the-home arrangements for toddlers in order to provide them with the optimal living conditions and ensure they remain attached to the adults. Unaccompanied minors must be assigned a guardian to deal with any legal representation and proceedings. Disabled persons should receive appropriate care, to the extent possible within the community, to ensure they enjoy maximum access to all areas of life.