This year is expected to see some 30,000 immigrants arriving in Israel, the highest amount in over a decade, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Zeev Elkin (Likud) revealed Wednesday while reviewing his office`s annual activity at the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.
Most of the immigrants who have already arrived came from France (around 7,500), Ukraine (around 7,000), and Russia (around 6,300). Immigration from Ukraine saw a rise of over 250%, and immigration from France increased by 118%.
Committee chairman MK Avraham Naguisa (Likud) emphasized the need to provide government housing for the 27,000 elderly and single-parent immigrants who are entitled to housing but have yet to receive homes. In addition, he called to assist some 400 families and 800 individuals who are waiting in absorption centers for housing solutions.
Naguisa asked the minister to address the policy of granting housing benefits for Ethiopian immigrants only in certain cities. Elkin responded that ”it is the state`s right to determine where to invest its grants, just like it encourages settling the periphery. As of now, the current policy will not change, but it is possible that a change would come with the new government plan.”
The minister added that ”over the past six years we have been witnessing a blessed wave of immigration, during which we have seen a rise of 50% in the number of immigrants. No other government office is dealing with such a rapid growth in such a short period of time.”
”While there will always be immigrants who come here for ideological reasons, the majority arrive due to the economic situation, anti-Semitism or political instability. Unfortunately, Israel isn`t always the first choice, and in recent years tens of thousands of Russian-speaking Jewish families immigrated to the UK and southern Spain. We need to ease the absorption process in order to prevent [this from happening]”.
The minister detailed the new absorption plan for Ethiopian immigrants, which is being implemented in cooperation with the community`s representatives , and presented the pension solutions for elderly immigrants, as well as the steps that are being taken by the ministry regarding public housing for lone elderly immigrants, including adding 1,000 new apartments over the next four years.
MK Oded Forer of Yisrael Beitenu stressed that the current absorption benefits package isn`t sufficient due to the rise of housing prices and that it should be expanded, while his fellow party member MK Sofa Landver called to protect the incomes of Holocaust survivors. Representing the immigrants` organizations, Esther Blum spoke of the dozens of daily calls for assistance from immigrants due to the recent events.