Posted by: Lister | January 29, 2007

Next Year in Ottawa

Jews Sans Frontieres had a provocative title for this story: Let My People Go!

Israelis seek asylum in Canada, by Alex Dobrota.

OTTAWA — Canada is granting residency to growing numbers of Israeli asylum seekers, including ethnic Russians, ultra-orthodox Jews and political dissidents who say they are victims of political or religious persecution in Israel.

[…] Israel’s ambassador to Ottawa has recently called the claims “bogus” and urged officials here not to accept Israeli asylum seekers. Mr. Gendelman stressed that Israel is a democratic state with human-rights institutions that serve all of its citizens.

But in many cases, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has disagreed.

More than 500 Israelis applied for refugee status in Canada last year, up from 253 in 2000. The acceptance rate rose from 5 per cent to 31 per cent in 2005 and 18 per cent last year, when IRB accepted 45 claims — an implicit recognition that these individuals suffered persecution in a state that could not protect their rights.

[…] The recent spike in numbers has put Israel in the top 10 countries ranked by the number refugee applications in Canada, along with Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

IRB officials are hard pressed to explain the increase in numbers.

Some observers have suggested that the surge in hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians is creating a climate where political dissidence and religious difference is less welcomed.

“Israel is a state that perceives itself as under siege,” said William Sloan, a Montreal lawyer for many ultra-orthodox Jews who say they have been persecuted in Israel. Many ultra-orthodox Jews have publicly disagreed with many of Israel’s policies, including its stand on the conflict with Palestinians.

“Anyone within the walls who tries to break that unity when you’re under siege is not well viewed.”

[…] A notorious case soon to be heard by IRB involves the son of a Yemeni rabbi critical of Israeli authorities, who was jailed during the 1990s after an armed standoff.

[…] Other refugees are believed to be Russian-speaking citizens of the former Soviet Union, a group that forms something of an economic underclass, often working in jobs that fall far below their skill levels.

Some refugee applicants are also believed to be Arab-Israelis, many of whom complain of outright racism in Israel since the beginning of the second intifada.

Aliyah is the term used to describe Jewish immigration to Israel. It means “ascent”. There is a term for Jewish emigration away from Israel: Yerida — meaning “descent”.

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