Heeding criticism, Israeli ministry vows to fix red tape plaguing French immigrants

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Responding to complaints, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption in Israel said it was working to lift obstructions that prevent recognition in the country of French vocational diplomas.

Alona Kedem, a spokeswoman for the ministry, acknowledged the need for finding solutions to the issue in a statement to JTA on Wednesday following criticism on Israel’s handling of new immigrants from France by Meyer Habib, a French-Jewish lawmaker.

On Monday Habib, a personal friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on Facebook that he would advise French Jews against making aliyah if what he described as “immense and unjust bureaucratic blockages” are not resolved within the following three months.

According to the statement, hundreds if not thousands of French immigrants to Israel, and especially professionals with French medical and paramedical diplomas, are prevented from finding work in their fields because their credentials are not recognized by the Health Ministry.

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“Some have no choice but to become, after five to eight years of study, waiters or call center operators,” Habib wrote. The blockages occur especially among dentists, physiotherapists and pharmacists, he wrote, as well as physicians, surgeons and lawyers.

For the second straight year, France emerged as the largest provider of Jewish immigrants to Israel with the arrival of 7,328 newcomers since Jan. 1.

Kedem said her ministry is working with the Health Ministry to resolve the issues as part of a November 2014 Cabinet resolution on “lifting obstructions for the employment of olim,” the Hebrew word for Jewish immigrants to Israel. Last month, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry approved reimbursing olim with $1,000 for notary expenses.

“We realize there remains work to be done and further issues to be resolved,” Kedem wrote.

But Habib wrote that efforts to fix the issues have been “disappointing.”

“I can no longer turn a blind eye to the personal tragedies caused by the torments of Israeli bureaucracy,” he said.

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