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‘Bureaucratic quagmire’: Israel airport deports son, severely disabled foreign wife of Russian-Israeli for ‘wrong visa’

6,500 people have fled to Israel from Russia since Putin announced the mass draft of 300,000 – and then 1 million – reservists to bolster his war in Ukraine

Illustrative - Passengers seen at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Sept. 7, 2022. (Photo: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

The son and severely disabled wife of Russian-Israeli man David Eventov were refused entry into Israel upon the family’s arrival to Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday and were sent back to Turkey – the wheelchair left behind. 

The Eventovs had fled Russia via Finland and Turkey for Eventov to escape Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mass draft of Russian reservists for the war in Ukraine. The Israeli citizen had brought his wheelchair-bound Russian wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and their 13-year-old son with him to Israel, where they had planned to immigrate. 

The family reportedly began the process of immigration to Israel several years ago, but it had stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear whether Yulia Eventova, Eventov’s wife, has the connection to Judaism that gives her the right of return.

According to Eventov, 46, airport authorities separated him from his wife and son at their arrival, despite knowing she required a wheelchair and had no one else to take care of her. Eventov said the authorities put the pair onto a plane bound for Turkey without giving any explanation or allowing them to plead their case. 

“Nobody would speak to us. They separated us, put them on a plane and that was it,” Eventov told the Israeli daily Haaretz. “I couldn’t explain anything to anyone. Nobody saw [Yulia] as a person.” 

It appears the issue that triggered the deportation of the pair was Eventov saying that the family planned to immigrate to Israel, a process that requires a different visa than Eventova and her son had applied for.

“I explained to her [the border clerk] that we had already submitted documents at the consulate, but it was delayed. I said that we had already rented an apartment and we just want to change status. I don’t need any money or assistance from the state. … I’m just at a loss,” Eventov said. “I don’t understand what’s happening. It brings tears to my eyes.”

Eventov had to buy a new airplane ticket to rejoin his family in Turkey, but even that was problematic, as his credit cards could not be used under the Western sanctions on Russian banks. Eventov eventually managed to join his family, but only found out then that the wheelchair was still in Tel Aviv.

According to attorney Eli Gervits, who specializes in citizenship and status law in Israel, the Eventovs were caught in a “bureaucratic quagmire.” 

Eventov’a and her son required a special non-tourist visa that only grants a 3-month stay and could not be allowed to enter Israel on an ordinary tourist visa. However, acquiring this particular non-tourist visa would have required Eventov to first come to Israel, visit the Interior Ministry and request that it issue visas for his wife and son, a highly unrealistic process for a family facing war. 

“Of course, in practice this is unrealistic, especially considering the long lines at the Interior Ministry and certainly in a state of war,” Gervits said, suggesting that the authorities, if concerned that his wife and son would stay beyond the three months, illegally, could have asked Eventov to post bond, an amount that would have been returned to him when his family began the immigration process. 

Approximately 6,500 people have fled to Israel from Russia since Putin announced the mass draft of 300,000 – and then 1 million – reservists to bolster his war effort in Ukraine. The majority of those who have entered Israel have done so on tourist visas.

Israel on Sunday approved an “express” procedure that enables immigrants from Russia or Ukraine to undergo an eligibility check only once they arrive in Israel. However, it was not clear when the procedure would be in place.   

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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