Despite the Interior Ministry’s efforts to prevent Sudanese and Eritrean migrants from working in Israel, that right now officially exists at least for one man.
On Tuesday, Administrative Court Judge Rami Amir ordered the ministry to remove from Abdelrahman Hijab’s visa the clause stating that the temporary permit does not constitute a work permit, thus opening the door to his future employment.
According to Israeli law and its commitment to international treatises protecting the rights of refugees, African migrants from Sudan and Eritrea – even those who entered Israel illegally – enjoy temporary collective protection by the state. Once determined that a person is a citizen of one of those countries, the state cannot force them to leave. The migrants are issued temporary permits, known as 2 Aleph 5 visas, which they then have to renew on a periodic basis.
While the temporary status does not give the migrants the formal right to work in the country, the government has thus far failed to take enforcement measures against people who employ them, due to the understanding that without the ability to work, the migrants would starve to death. A recent cabinet meeting decided that the state could only begin conducting such enforcement activities once a humanitarian solution was found for the migrants in the form of a holding facility, set to be constructed in the south, where the migrants will be able to turn for their basic needs.
Hijab arrived in Israel in 2008 after fleeing from civil war in the Darfur region of Sudan. Upon entering the country, he was arrested for crossing the border illegally and placed in detention for a year and a half.
Hijab’s case first reached the court after he petitioned it, with the aid of Migrant Workers Hotline’s lawyer Yonatan Berman, to overrule the Interior Ministry’s claim that he is not Sudanese and not deserving of collective protection.
After conducting a hearing the judge was convinced that Hijab is indeed from Sudan and ordered the ministry to issue him a 2 Aleph 5 visa and supplied Hijab with a verdict that he was entitled to work for his sustenance.
Three months ago, however, the Interior Ministry began for the first
time to print a statement on these visas that read: “the temporary
permit does not constitute a work permit.” Like all the other 2 Aleph 5
visa holders, Hijab’s newly issued permit carried the statement. Fearful
that the statement would prevent employers from hiring him, Hijab
turned once again to the Migrant Workers Hotline and they filed a
complaint to the court, stating that the ministry’s actions placed it in
contempt of the court’s decision regarding Hijab, which specifically
stated that he was allowed to work.
In her response to the complaint, the Interior Ministry’s lawyer argued
that the permit carrying the statement did not contravene the court’s
decision since it didn’t state that the bearer was not allowed to work,
only that the visa didn’t constitute a work permit and that Hijab’s
right to work was granted by the judge’s original verdict.
The judge didn’t accept the ministry’s position. In his ruling he wrote
that any reasonable person reading the permit would be led to understand
that Hijab was not allowed to work.
“You can’t place the duty on the petitioner, a Sudanese citizen who
arrived here after escaping a war zone, to explain to potential
employers that they can legally employ him despite what it says on the
permit issued him by the Interior Ministry and that the verdict carries
more authority than the visa,” wrote the judge in his ruling. “Clearly
it will prevent him, or at least make it exceedingly difficult for him,
to find an employer.”
In the end the judge dismissed the contempt charges, stating that the
problem might have arisen because of a mistake or a misunderstanding,
but ordered the Interior Ministry to issue Hijab a new visa, making no
reference to the right to work.
Hijab’s lawyer told The Jerusalem Post that he was doubtful whether the
ruling would make the Interior Ministry change its policies regarding
the permits of the rest of the Sudanese and Eritrean nationals living in
Israel, but that it was an important precedent for future petitions of a
Thus far the ministry has never attempted to appeal an Administrative
Court’s decision regarding the migrant’s right to work. Until it does,
it is likely that no change of policy will be forced on it.