BONN (May. 16)
A ranking official on Thursday rejected rumors that 250 Soviet Jews who came to Berlin from Israel last winter would be expelled.
Interior Minister Dieter Heckelmann of Berlin, one of Germany’s 16 federal states, said that while their legal status is still undecided, the Jews would not be forcibly ejected.
About 300 Jews who immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union last year flew to Berlin in January, saying they were fleeing Iraqi Scud missile attacks. Their temporary visas expired in March, but all but 50 refused to return to Israel, where they alleged they were poorly treated.
Speculation that they faced imminent expulsion arose last week, when federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wrote from Bonn that Soviet Jews who come from Israel must be treated as Israeli nationals, not refugees.
“Special arrangements for Soviet Jews do not apply to this group,” who are considered tourists from Israel and are ineligible for permanent residency, Schaeuble advised the Berlin authorities.
Under new German regulations, Soviet Jews may immigrate to Germany, but must apply for immigration visas at German consulates in the Soviet Union. To qualify, they must prove German origin or have relatives in Germany.