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Population Authority in chaos over requests for entry permits

CM 10/08/2021

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New immigrants to Israel and their relatives in the Diaspora are suffering from poorly managed processes for obtaining entry permits, and hundreds of them say they have failed to receive timely responses from the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority to their applications, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

In many cases, the applicants are parents, brothers, sisters or children of olim seeking to attend weddings, births, brit milah ceremonies or simply visit relatives who, in many instances, they have not seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some cases, applications disappear from the system without the applicant’s knowledge; in other cases, applications are submitted without a necessary document and are not processed, but without the applicant being informed there is a problem.
In one incident, B.D. applied to the Population and Immigration Authority on behalf of his parents on July 19 for a flight they had booked on August 18 to attend their son’s wedding in September. By August 8, they had not received any response from the Population and Immigration Authority.

B.D., who made aliyah in 2015, went to his local Population and Immigration Authority branch this Sunday to find out what was happening together with a friend who was there to assist him and who is an expert in the application process.
B.D. gave the reference number for his parents’ application to the branch manager, and she told him their application did not appear in the system and that he should resubmit it and attach the original application in the new one, he told the Post. B.G. added that the branch manager told him and his friend that applications are deleted after 14 days if not processed within that time.
Several hours after submitting a new application it was approved, B.D. said.
Following a request for comment by the Post on Tuesday regarding this specific incident, the Population and Immigration Authority denied it has any policy in which applications are deleted or that the branch manager had told the applicant this was the case.
However, when asked by the Post on Sunday if there is a general policy in which applications are deleted after 14 days, a Population and Immigration Authority representative acknowledged that this is the case “if the application does not include the requisite documentation.”
According to activist groups, hundreds of applicants do not get responses at all from the Population and Immigration Authority, dozens if not hundreds are not informed that there is a problem with their applications, and similar numbers of applicants are often required to cancel or reschedule flights.
Even applications that have been filled out correctly with all relevant documentation provided are sometimes unanswered, the activists say.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked “is working with the Population and Immigration Authority to improve the process all the time, and we are witness to that every week,” a representative of the authority said.
A spokeswoman for Shaked said: “There are policies for the entry of foreigners into the country, and she [Shaked] will act in accordance with those policies.”
“People are suffering,” said Rabbi Dov Lipman, founder of the Yad L’Olim organization, which assists relatives of olim applying for entry to Israel.
There are hundreds of applicants who apply in good time and do not receive an answer before their flight, causing them to either miss their flight or rearrange it, he said.
“The ministers and their staffs all want to help, and we work well with them,” he added. “There are simply too many requests to two different portals, and it is overwhelming.”
“I call on Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett to step in to make one centralized link for all requests, to increase the numbers of personnel to review the hundreds of thousands of requests in a timely manner and to remove the anxiety, tension and pain from this process,” Lipman said.
Another case involves Sammy Schaechter, who made aliyah in 2016 and is scheduled to get married on August 26.
His brother and sister, who live in the US, submitted applications to the authority on July 29 and July 22, respectively, but they have yet to receive a response.
Schaechter is anxious for his siblings to obtain entry permits in time to complete the seven days of quarantine necessary for most foreigners entering the country before the date of the wedding.
“This is a very special time, and we want to enjoy everything about it,” he said. “But it’s difficult when dealing with unnecessary stress and challenges when these applications should have been taken care of a while ago.”
“It’s been very stressful,” Schaechter said. “The rules are changing every day, everything’s up in the air, and it’s making things very challenging.”
Yael Wool has lived in Israel since she was 14, but she still has many relatives living abroad, including her grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, who live in France and Belgium.
She was scheduled to get married on August 22 but has now canceled the wedding since too many of her relatives were not able to obtain entry permits, including her grandparents.
According to the authority’s regulations, grandparents are permitted to enter the country for the wedding of their grandchildren.
Wool’s grandparents, who live in Paris, applied through the Foreign Ministry’s online application form on July 16. But their application was denied. When the rate of infection in France and Israel improves, the application could be reviewed, they were told.
Wool’s uncle and aunt in France also applied to come for the wedding, even though the regulations do not allow for such relatives to be given entry for the purposes of a wedding.
Bizarrely, Wool’s uncle was given an entry permit, but her aunt was refused, with the reason given that her health insurance did not meet the requirements for entry, even though it was the same as her husband’s.
Wool’s cousins in Belgium had their entry-permit applications approved the same day, even though they, too, did not fulfill the criteria to receive them.
“I’m very disappointed,” Wool said. “If they saw how much this is affecting people mentally, it takes a toll. It’s not healthy for people to be away from their family.”
“I have no family here,” she said. “During the whole pandemic, I was here completely alone. I was looking forward to this date for so long and to be together with my family in the Jewish state, and that was taken away. I want that to change because I know I am not the only one dealing with this.”
The Foreign Ministry has said it has received a very high number of applications for entry permits, and “at some of the consulates where there are large Jewish and Israeli populations, there have been thousands of new requests every day.”
“The Foreign Ministry is making the utmost effort to improve and make more efficient the processing of entry-permit requests and to ensure that anyone who is eligible can do so in the quickest possible manner,” it said.
In response, the Population and Immigration Authority said: “Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out a year and a half ago, the policy for the entry of foreigners to Israel has changed, and as a result, any foreigner who requests to come to Israel knows that he must arrange his entry before he arrives, and even then requests will be approved in exceptional cases, as is published and updated every few weeks on the Internet website. The policies are clear and transparent.”
In its statement to the Post, the Population and Immigration Authority said: “Applications are not deleted at all and are dealt with in the order they are submitted. There are hundreds if not thousands of requests every day… The director of the branch did not say anything like this [that applications are deleted after 14 days], and after checking with the complainant [B.D.], even he does not remember that such a thing was said.”
When contacted again by the Post, B.D. insisted that the branch manager had said applications are deleted after 14 days and that his application for his parents was no longer in the system. She therefore asked him to resubmit it.
B.D.’s friend who accompanied him said: “I was told by a very calm and kind manager of B.D.’s local office that applications are deleted after 14 days and that we needed to reapply, referencing the old application, and that once we did so, the application would be moved forward to the Exceptions Committee for consideration.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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