Jerusalem, 11 April 2000

Interior Minister Sharansky: Problem of Falash Mura is Humanitarian

(Communicated by the Interior Ministry Spokesman)

Interior Minister Natan Sharansky today (Tuesday) 11.4.2000, said, "The problem of the Falash Mura is a difficult humanitarian problem that must be solved speedily. However, we not give blanket entry permits for them."

Minister Sharansky is currently in Ethiopia in order to examine the issues relating to the Falash Mura who wish to immigrate to Israel. His decisions include:

1. To allow requests for immigration to be submitted in Ethiopia itself, in order to shorten examination procedures and make them more efficient.

2. To increase staff at the Interior Ministry dealing with these requests, both in Israel and in Ethiopia. The Interior Minister will submit a supplementary budget request from the Finance Ministry immediately upon his return to Israel.

The Interior Minister noted that the survey conducted a few years ago by David Efrati (then director of the census administration at the Interior Ministry), gave a figure of 26,000 Falash Mura living in Ethiopia who had returned to Judaism. This figure is the basis for examining immigration requests today. Each request will be individually examined based on the Law of Return and the Law of Entry, uniting first degree kin.

Minister Sharansky stated that Israel faces a critical moment, with pressures regarding the Law of Return. On one hand, there are demands to tighten the Law in light of the number of non-Jews arriving in Israel from Russia, while on the other, there are demands to expand the Law due to the situation in Ethiopia. "The problem on the Falash Mura must be solved humanely, but the issue must not be entangled with the Law of Return. It must be quickly deiced who has the right to immigrate based on the Law of Return and who will be permitted to immigrate based on the Law of Entry and uniting of families," he said.

The Interior Minister will return to Israel today (Tuesday) at 19:00, accompanied by a group of Falash Mura.