Israel announces plans to open transit camps for Russian Jews in Azerbaijan

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The Israeli government has said it intends to open temporary camps in Azerbaijan for Russian Jews seeking to settle in Israel following the war in Ukraine.

On October 2, the Israeli government approved a proposal to facilitate the immigration of Russian Jews to Israel, amid the largest wave of Russian emigration in two decades, according to the Jerusalem Post. reported.

Among the programs contemplated in this proposal was the creation of temporary camps in Azerbaijan and Finland for Russian Jews seeking to settle in Israel. The camps would be established by the Jewish Agency, an international non-profit organization that works with the Israeli government to help Jews from around the world resettle in Israel.

Few details of the Azerbaijani camps were available. The Israeli embassy in Baku told Eurasianet that it had no information on the opening of camps in Azerbaijan and that the Jewish Agency would be in charge of the matter. The Jewish Agency’s Baku office declined to comment on Eurasianet. Local media reported little on the issue, although the pro-government site AzerNews reported based solely on the Jerusalem Post report.

While Russians have fled in the hundreds of thousands since the war began in February, Azerbaijan has received relatively few. Many of those who came to Azerbaijan were ethnic Azerbaijanis, although there are no official statistics.

From January to August, around 263,000 people came from Russia to Azerbaijan, an increase of 70% over the previous year, the State Border Service reported. He did not say how many of them had left. By comparison, there were around 780,000 Russian entries to Armenia from January to September and 800,000 to Georgia from March to August.

The announcement of the mobilization at the end of September stimulated a new wave of emigrants from Russia. “Azerbaijans who are Russian citizens are trying to save their lives. People are panicked and confused, they don’t know what to do,” one Told Azerbaijani BBC.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption, which drafted the government proposal with the Ministry of Finance, more than 40,000 immigrants have arrived in Israel since the start of the war, including around 24,000 from Russia. “This is the biggest surge in two decades,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

The Russian government has sought to end Jewish Agency operations in Russia; a legal action brought by the Ministry of Justice to this effect is currently in court.

Jewish Agency chief says there is a shortage of hotel rooms in Israel following large influx from Russia, so agency may reopen absorption centers in Israel, aimed at acclimatizing and integrating new immigrants.

Azerbaijan has long enjoyed warm and extensive relations with Israel. Azerbaijan has purchased some of its most advanced weapons, including Harop drones, from Israel. Israeli companies were also among those preferred for reconstruction contracts in the Karabakh territories that Azerbaijan recaptured in the 2020 war with Armenia.

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