World News

Israel to allow in thousands of Ethiopians

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel decided on Sunday to allow 8,000 Ethiopians who claim Jewish descent to enter the country and obtain Israeli citizenship, including some who have waited for years in transit camps.

“The government of Israel wants to solve this problem, because there is a difficult humanitarian crisis there,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet shortly before they approved the measure.

More than 100,000 Jews from Ethiopia already live in Israel. Many arrived in airlifts in the 1980s and 1990s in times of hunger and political strife in Ethiopia.

Thousands more of the Falash Mura, who say they were forced to convert to Christianity in Ethiopia, have arrived in recent years in smaller groups, but Israel largely halted the flow about three years ago.

Netanyahu said the Falash Mura would be brought to Israel over the next three years.

Immigrant groups in Israel have long protested the delay in permitting them to arrive, saying it has split families whose relatives have been left behind.

Israel grants automatic citizenship to Jews who immigrate. Most Falash Mura must undergo a conversion ritual before receiving citizenship papers.

Writing by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Noah Barkin