“The rights of lone and elderly new immigrants should be put on a par with those of new immigrant families,” the Chairman of the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) argued during a debate Monday on housing solutions for lone and elderly new immigrants who are residents of absorption centers.
“Lone new immigrants should not be discriminated against, they should receive the full rights that are granted to new immigrant families and couples,” MK Neguise said. “Due to this discrimination – lone new immigrants are still stuck in absorption centers and cannot purchase an apartment of their own.”
MK Neguise harshly criticized the representative of the Finance Ministry for choosing to be absent from the meeting “and for the disrespect he displayed towards the Committee and the Knesset by submitting the Ministry’s position only half an hour prior to the meeting’s start.”
The Ministry of Finance representative who irked the Committee Chair is Yuval Teller, Housing Coordinator in the Finance Ministry’s Budget Division, who announced that “the issue that is being discussed today at the Committee meeting is a continuation of previous meetings on new immigrants. In view of the budget constraints, we cannot increase the grants for this specific population. Alternatively, we proposed a reconciliation proposal of a partial grant, however the Committee did not agree to our proposal. We are currently reexamining grants for new immigrants who have left absorption centers, in order to provide a solution to obstacles preventing people from leaving these centers, and we will update the committee upon the completion of the inspection.”
MK Neguise emphasized that the families who will currently arrive from Ethiopia will encounter great difficulties in integrating into modern society if they would be referred to direct integration – and they should therefore continue to be absorbed in absorption centers.
The Director General of the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration, Alex Kushnir, responded that 619 lone immigrants currently reside in absorption centers, of whom only 134 have been living in Israel for under three years. He contended that “absorption centers are temporary and not long-term housing venues. We will not evacuate anyone, and certainly not the elderly, however we encourage new immigrants to leave the absorption center and move to independent housing by providing them with rental assistance. A lone new immigrant receives rental assistance amounting to NIS 1500 each month, and after marrying, he or she may receive an additional grant for a family.” Kushnir warned that those who object to the direct absorption of the remaining Jews in Ethiopia liable to prolong the situation of those who remain in absorption centers.
Haviv Katzav, Deputy Director General of Housing at the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration, added that Ethiopian new immigrants are given a special grant, which is not given to any other new immigrant, which provides rental assistance – and therefore these new immigrants must be encouraged to seek independent housing.
“Not only are they not discriminated against, but rather, on the contrary, they receive preferential treatment,” he said. “In every entitlement system of the State of Israel there is a distinction between individuals and a family, and in spite of this, the entitlement is preserved for them for about five years and about 450 lone new immigrants have already taken advantage of this and have moved to independent housing.”
MK Yoseph Yonah (Zionist Camp) indicated that “in the past the country has exhibited paralyzing patronage, and has put obstacles in the path of Ethiopian new immigrants in the form of absorption in absorption centers and not via direct absorption.” He called on the state to accompany and provide consultation for the new immigrants, and at the same time to significantly increase rental assistance in order to encourage the transition to independent housing and the departure from absorption centers.
MK Yulia Malinvosky (Yisrael Beitenu) emphasized that when her entitlement to housing at the absorption center expired about 20 years ago, she and her partner were forced to leave, and randomly chose an alternate housing venue, without receiving any rental assistance, accompaniment or guidance.
According to MK Yinon Azoulay (Shas) “Immigrants from Ethiopia have not succeeded in acclimatizing to Israeli society like the rest of the new immigrants – and particularly in comparison to new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who arrived on a platter of gold.”