As New Refugee Policy Takes Effect, Dutch Embassy Stops Issuing Visas

The Dutch Embassy in Moscow has been issuing Israeli visas at the rate of 6,000 to 9,000 a month this year to Soviet Jews planning to emigrate.

But that practice ended Sunday, at least for the 90 percent who plan to go to the United States instead of Israel. The embassy will now issue visas only to those Soviet Jews intent on making aliyah.

The move is largely due to a U.S. policy change that, beginning Oct. 1, has required Soviet Jews and others seeking to enter the United States as refugees to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The Dutch Embassy has represented Israeli interests in Moscow since the Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

In recent years, it has issued visas only to those few hundred Jews able to get Soviet exit permits each year. But with the coming of glasnost, record numbers of Jews have been allowed to leave.

The Israeli visa section at the Dutch Embassy could be short-lived. Even if the Soviets do not immediately re-establish ties with Israel, they may soon allow the Israeli consular mission now in Moscow to issue visas on its own.

Meanwhile, the new U.S. rule requiring Soviet Jews wishing to immigrate to the United States as refugees to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will have no immediate effect on the backlog of emigres presently waiting near Rome.

13,500 WAITING NEAR ROME

“Changes are expected to be more apparent in spring or summer,” according to an official at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which assists the emigres with temporary housing and other services.

According to the relief agency’s figures, there are some 13,500 Soviet Jews waiting in Ladispoli and a dozen other towns outside Rome while the U.S. Embassy there processes their applications for refugee visas.

“There are another 3,500 in Vienna, plus another 20,000 to 25,000 in the pipeline who have their papers under the old system,” the official said.

JDC predicts that “in the next couple of months, we’ll be flooded with people coming out on the old system. Only when the backlog is cleared will we be able to see what impact the new procedure has here.”

Until now, most Jews leaving the Soviet Union departed with Israeli visas but chose the United States as their destination on reaching Vienna. They were then sent to Rome, where the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society assisted with the paperwork and costs associated with coming to the United States.

Prior to last fall, the U.S. government automatically allowed all Soviet Jews to enter the United States as refugees. But as the number of Jews allowed to leave increased this year, the American authorities became more selective.

During the past year, they have been granting refugee status only to Jews who can prove they face persecution in the Soviet Union. About 19 percent of the applicants have been rejected.

(JTA correspondent Ruth E. Gruber in Rome contributed to this report.)

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