Cabinet to vote on plan to reduce number of illegal foreign

The plan, proposed by an inter-ministerial committee, focuses on penalizing employers and limiting entrance permits.

By RON FRIEDMAN
January 18, 2010 07:59
3 minute read.
Cabinet to vote on plan to reduce number of illegal foreign

foreign worker 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

The cabinet on Sunday began debating a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of illegal foreign workers in the country. The plan, proposed by an inter-ministerial committee, focuses on penalizing employers and limiting entrance permits.

Human rights groups claim the plan harms the rights of migrants and their families. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz presented the new plan to the cabinet in Sunday's weekly meeting, but due to time constraints, was unable to bring it to a vote and was forced to postpone a vote until next week.

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The plan, drawn up by representatives of the Ministries of Finance, Interior and Justice, as well as representatives of the Prime Minister's Office and the Bank of Israel, authorizes the enforcement of criminal charges and a minimum fine of NIS 10,000, on anyone found to be employing an illegal worker.

Companies employing illegal workers face fines of NIS 25,000 per worker. Those found guilty will also be barred from receiving permits for legal foreign workers. The new plan also changes taxation policies for those employing illegal foreign workers.

Starting with the 2010 tax assessments, the Tax Authority will not recognize wage expenses paid to illegal foreign workers. Those found employing illegal workers will be subject to a tax audit. Part of the plan attempts to reduce the incentive of bringing new foreign workers into the country.

The common practice is that foreign nationals interested in working in Israel, must pay a high commission rate to employment agencies that have work permits for migrant workers. The plan proposes to penalize firms who charge exorbitant fees from their workers; it increases incarceration times for those found guilty from six months to three years. Another measure the new plan takes is to force agencies that import workers for jobs in the caregivers sector to pay the workers for a full year's employment.

This is meant to encourage them to keep the workers on longer and not rush to import a new worker from abroad. For the same purpose, a database of permitted, but unemployed caregivers will be established. Until now, foreign workers who lost their job because of the death of their employers were at risk of losing their status.

The companies, eager to import new workers, were not compelled to first seek existing ones and the result became termed the "revolving door." The plan also puts limits on the type of work a foreign worker can conduct. Every migrant worker who enters Israel will be designated to a specific sector, which will appear on his or her entrance permit and will be forbidden from crossing over to other sectors.

Those who are found not to be working in their designated sector for more than 90 days will be deported. Another measure that the new plan proposes is to forbid illegal aliens from applying for work permits while in the country. According to the new plan, those who were found to be working illegally will be forced to leave the country and will only be considered for a new permit after a "freeze" period.

According to the committee's report, there are currently more than 125,000 illegal migrant workers in Israel. "The government's policies on foreign workers are part of its guidelines, established in its formation because of the negative influences foreign workers have on the state," it read.

The new plan does not address the fate of the 1,200 children of illegal foreign workers, who were set to be deported, along with their families in November, but were given permission to stay until the end of the school year.

Human Rights groups reacted harshly to some of the plan's suggestions, claiming the measures forcing a worker to leave the country before filing a request for a new permit would harm the worker's families, leaving them without their family member.

A spokesman for the Migrant Workers Hotline also criticized the requirement that the workers to be employed according to specific sectors, arguing that it unfairly binds the worker to an employee, something that has been prohibited by the High Court. The Migrant Workers Hotline, along with Physicians For Human Rights and Kav La'oved (The Workers' Hotline), have called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to call off the plan.


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