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Ethiopian absorption failure (Illustration)
Photo: Sason Tiram
State gets failing grade on Ethiopian immigration
Comptroller's report shows government failed in its handling of Ethiopian immigrants; community suffers from prevalent drug abuse, domestic violence
Over 100,000 Ethiopian immigrants are currently living in Israel, with 65% requiring some kind of welfare assistance. According to the state comptroller's report, the Ministry of Social Affairs did not initiate a special program to teach social workers handling Ethiopian immigrants about the community's culture and needs until 2006.

 

The harsh report pointed to a study conducted by the Israel Anti Drug Abuse Foundation that showed one quarter of Ethiopan-Israeli youths have used drugs, and two thirds reported consuming alcoholic beverages.

 

Despite the disturbing results, the comptroller's report found that the Foundation did not develop a plan for dealing with the drug and alcohol problems of Ethiopian youths until 2007.

 

The comptroller charged that almost every government authority has failed in some way – on both the municipal and national level – in dealing with the social needs of Ethiopian immigrants.

 

"The upsetting results about this community's distress have been recognized for years, but government authorities did not fully understand their special need for treatment. Also, no systematic organization for the treatment of this community was put forth, and as a result not enough was done socially in order to sufficiently incorporate them into society," the report charged.

 

Treatment took over two years

In Netanya, 60% of the city's Ethiopian residents, who account for 6.2% of the city's population, seek the help of social welfare services. However, the state comptroller found that only two Ethiopian social workers were employed at the municipality's center for domestic violence. Because of the manpower shortage, some cases took up to a year to be handled

 

One example included in the report was the story of a blind woman who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia and settled in Netanya,. The woman reported that her husband of 40 years was physically and verbally abusive towards her and her daughter. In April 2005, social workers recommended that the couple be dealt with at the center, but the case had to wait for more than two years to be handled.

 

The comptroller also slammed the Ministry of Social Affairs for neglecting to  process the information received about disputes that were reported by community members. The comptroller emphasized the importance of treating the Ethiopian community's social issues, as Israel Police records show a relatively high rate of domestic violence among Ethiopian immigrants.

 

The Prime Minister's Office said in response that the government had allotted over NIS 800 million (more than $200 million) to the improvement of the Ethiopian immigrants' absorption. The Netanya Municipality said it understood the need for "discussing the subject," and that it had reinforced the human resources channels dealing with Ethiopian senior citizens.

 

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