Suit Filed on Immigrants’ Behalf

By Elli Wohlgelernter

Published July 04, 2003, issue of July 04, 2003.

JERUSALEM – A class-action lawsuit has been filed with the Israeli high court in an effort to force the government to follow through on a February decision to speed up the immigration process for more than 18,000 languishing Ethiopians hoping to immigrate to Israel.

Under the plan, which was approved by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s previous government, the interior minister, now Avraham Poraz, is charged with ensuring that the immigration process is expedited. Activists had hoped that the Cabinet decision removed the last legal obstacle to the immigration of Ethiopian Jews, known as Falash Mura, many of whom are in danger of dying of starvation and have been separated from their families for years.

“To our dismay, nothing was done since February 16,” said attorney Omri Kaufman, who is working on the case pro bono. “Since we received no response to our requests and letters that we sent a month ago, we had no other choice but to ask the court to rule and to decide either to force the interior minister to act according to the government’s decision or, as an alternative, to demand that the government take responsibility for its own decision and take the power that it needs in order to implement its own decision.”

The petition was brought on behalf of one Ethiopian living in Israel whose family still lives in Ethiopia, 379 petitioners in Ethiopia who are representing the rest of the Falash Mura and a U.S.-based organization, Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry.

The court ruled that the government must respond within 30 days and ordered it to respond by next week to two contempt-of-court petitions against Poraz filed by Michael Corinaldi, an attorney who has worked on many cases over the years on behalf of Ethiopians.



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