Tourism Minister: Immigration policies damaging Israel's image
Public storm caused by detention of Peruvian tourist visiting Israeli boyfriend prompts Minister Misezhnikov to send letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu calling for meeting on Interior Ministry's 'insensitive policies' that present Israel as 'inhumane state'
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday expressing his concern that the Interior Ministry's immigration policies are harmful and damaging to Israel's image.
The letter was prompted by the arrest of Angelica Vasquez, a Peruvian woman arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport earlier this month to visit, for the first time, her Israeli boyfriend Luciano Ludwig, who she met over the social network Facebook a year-and-a-half ago.
Upon her arrival, Vasquez was stopped by police officers, questioned, and kept in an airport holding cell for five days, before a court ordered her release following Ludwig's strenuous efforts.
The Interior Ministry suspected Vasquez planned to overstay her visit in Israel illegally, since she had arrived with only $50 and said she had quit her job back home.
Ludwig spent five days, and NIS 15,000 (almost $4,000) on legal proceedings to have Vasquez released from detention, so they could finally begin their holiday together.
The moving story received much media coverage in Israel, causing the tourism minister to send a letter to the PM, requesting a cabinet session on immigration law enforcement policies.
In his letter, Misezhnikov told Netanyahu the affair "highlights another aspect of the Interior Ministry's stringent immigration policies.
"The public echo that followed the publication and presented Israel as an insensitive, inhumane state, creates long term damage to its image, which will become irreversible if the Interior Ministry's current policy is not changed immediately."
Misezhnikov also mentioned other limitations the Interior Ministry places on tourists, including the demand for a personal guarantee to ensure they will leave the country.
He also expressed his objection to the Oz Unit's recent raid on a Tel Aviv hotel, at the height of the tourism season. The raid was mean to seek out illegal residents, but according to the minister, "it caused unnecessary panic and commotion, that damages Israel's image as a developed tourism state".
Misezhnikov concluded his letter with a clear demand: "The policy must not become spiteful or insensitive. It seems (sensitivity and humanity) have been missing from the Interior Ministry's policies recently."