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Ethiopian immigration on hold after Israeli budget passes

A newly immigrated Ethiopian Jewish boy with an Israeli attends a welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The reunification of hundreds of families split between Israel and Ethiopia is on hold after Israel failed to set aside funding for the Ethiopians’ immigration in next year’s budget, an activist group said Thursday.

Nearly 8,000 Ethiopians are hoping for Israel to approve their immigration, allowing them to join their families in Israel. Although many are practicing Jews, Israel doesn’t consider them Jewish, meaning their immigration requires special approval.

Alisa Bodner, a spokeswoman for the Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah, called on Israel to resolve their plight without further delay.

The families see the issue as part of an inconsistent and discriminatory immigration policy.

Parliament approved a 2019 budget early Thursday with no allocation for the Ethiopians’ immigration. Bodner said the issue is expected to come up in a government committee at an unknown date.

An official from the prime minister’s office said the issue was set to be raised at the next meeting of a ministerial committee dealing with the integration of Ethiopian-Israelis, without elaborating on why the funding wasn’t allocated. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue with the media.