Israel Will Require Foreign Workers Be Checked for AIDS
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel will require foreign workers to be tested for the AIDS virus starting Jan. 1, and has been screening some Jewish immigrants during the past six months, an official says.
The disclosure by David Efrati, director of population administration for the Interior Ministry, raised questions about Israel’s long-standing offer of citizenship to Jews of any nationality who want to immigrate.
Efrati did not say in a Saturday interview whether any Jew had been denied the right to immigrate because of AIDS, and other government officials said they did not know.
Efrati said Jewish immigrants from only some countries are being tested. He did not identify those nations, but said Jews from the former Soviet Union are exempted if they declare they are free of any diseases harmful to the public. Soviet Jews have accounted for the bulk of immigrants in recent years.
Israeli law grants automatic immigration and citizenship to anyone born of a Jewish mother or who has converted to Judaism. However, the law also contains a provision that allows the Interior Ministry to block immigration by anyone who threatens public health, and it is thought the government may use that clause to keep out people with the AIDS virus.
Under the rules made public by Efrati, foreign workers who apply for temporary residency permits will have to prove they do not carry the AIDS virus. The rules exempt tourists, business people, U.N. soldiers and clergy.
The new regulation is chiefly aimed at screening overseas laborers, Efrati told army radio.
Officials were reluctant to go into detail about their reasoning, or to single out risk groups by nationality. But they gave the impression they were concerned about laborers who live in dormitories and spend long periods away from their families.
Palestinian workers from the occupied territories, most of whom work as laborers, will not be required to have AIDS tests.
Officials said today that the screening might be expanded later.
″It has to be in stages,″ said Tova Elinson, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry. ″We had to start with something.″
Elinson said that if the screening proved effective, the Interior Ministry might require all non-Israelis seeking to remain beyond their initial three- month visas to prove they do not carry the AIDS virus.
Most of the 6,000 licensed foreign workers now in Israel are manual laborers, Efrati said. Most work in construction or as maids.