Israel: Berlin taking our immigrants

A semi-governmental body in charge of immigration to Israel has criticised Germany for offering refugee status to Jews from former Soviet Union (FSU) countries.

    Ariel Sharon (R) hopes to entice 100,000 immigrants a year

    The head of the Jewish Agency, Sallai Meridor, told the Knesset's Immigration and Absorption Committee on Tuesday that Berlin was blatantly ignoring Israel's 56-year right to take all Jewish immigrants.

    "The government of Israel must take serious steps to counter Germany. This situation drastically affects immigration to Israel. Last year, about 19,000 Jews immigrated to Germany from the FSU whereas only 12,000 came to Israel."
      
    The Israeli government has pledged to make the immigration of Jews a top priority, worried by the fact that the Arab population of Israel and the Palestinian territories is growing much faster than the Jewish population. 
      
    Downward trend

    However immigration levels fell by 31% last year, according to official figures.
      
    Some 24,000 Jewish immigrants moved to Israel in 2003, far short of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stated goal of 100,000 a year.

    Around 12,500 arrived from the former Soviet Union - a drop of 6000 on the previous 12 months.
      
    Meridor also raised the issue of conversion, accusing the Chief Rabbinate of making it difficult for immigrants wanting to convert to Judaism to do so.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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