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Israel Acts to Stop Slide in Immigration

June 24, 2003|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Immigration to Israel has fallen sharply this year, a Cabinet minister said Monday, as the government took a step to try to reverse the trend by reinstating housing grants for new arrivals.

Only 7,692 immigrants came to Israel in the first five months of the year, putting the country on track for a yearlong total far below the 35,168 of 2002, according to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Immigration is in a "tailspin," said the head of the ministry, Tzipi Livni. "It's impossible to remain indifferent to what's going on."

A main factor quashing immigration is nearly three years of Palestinian-Israeli violence. Many potential immigrants have thought twice because of terrorist attacks in Israel, and the unrest has contributed to a recession with high unemployment.

In 2001, there were 44,633 new arrivals in Israel. During the peak years of 1990 and 1991, almost 377,000 immigrants arrived, most from the former Soviet Union.

Mike Rosenberg, director of the Jewish Agency, the body responsible for bringing Jews to Israel, said that besides Israel's economic and security situations, measures such as cutting housing grants have discouraged immigration. On Monday, Israel reinstated those grants, the prime minister's office said.

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