French Immigration to Israel Down, Russia’s Up

YERUSHALAYIM -

The end-of-2016 statistics show a slight downturn in the number of Jews coming to live in Israel, according to official sources.

The number of immigrants dropped from 31,000 in 2015 to 27,000 this year, based on preliminary data released by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Aliya and Immigration Ministry on Thursday.

Russia, the biggest contributor of immigrants, ran against the trend, exceeding last year’s 6,600 with 7,000 in 2016. Brazilian immigration also rose, from 497 to 760.

The financial crisis in Russia, as well as concerns over President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism, have pushed up the immigration rate from Russia, Jewish Agency head Anatoly Sharansky told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“In Russia there’s a serious increase from Moscow and St. Petersburg that we haven’t seen in the past, and that’s mainly businessmen, intelligentsia, people who are afraid to find themselves closed off from the free world,” Sharansky said in 2015. That year was a record-breaker for Russia, the most in at least a decade; and this year it was more.

However, there were fewer people arriving from Ukraine and France. Approximately 5,500 Ukrainian immigrants arrived in Israel in 2016 compared with 7,221 last year, while there were some 5,000 French olim this year — 2,900 less than in 2015, when it was the leading source of immigrants.

In addition, Qualita, the umbrella organization for French olim, pointed out that about 10 percent of them leave Israel within three years of their arrival. Qualita CEO Ariel Kandel blamed the disappointing figures on the difficulties the French have had in transferring their professional credentials as doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists to Israel.

The government has recently eased qualification procedures for doctors, however.

Aliya and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu) said: “We are strengthening and building new projects in the realms of employing immigrants and encouraging entrepreneurship across the country, with an emphasis on Yerushalayim, the Negev, and the Galil.”

The U.S. also saw a slight decrease in Jews leaving for Israel — 2,900 in 2016, which was 170 less than in 2015.

620 olim arrived from Belarus (compared to 600 last year), 650 from the United Kingdom (775), and 272 from South Africa (236).