'Foreign worker amendments tucked into arrangements bill'

Three human rights organizations say economic arrangements bill passed by Knesset includes migrant worker restrictions that bypass High Court.

By DAN IZENBERG
October 27, 2010 03:23
2 minute read.
MIGRANT WORKERS outside the central bus station in Tel Aviv.

Migrant Workers 311. (photo credit: Illustrative photo/ Mya Guarnieri)

Three human rights organizations have charged that the economic arrangements bill that was passed in first reading by the Knesset early Tuesday morning includes “draconian restrictions against migrant workers and those seeking recognized status, even though they have nothing to do with the budget and contradict High Court rulings.”

The statement was issued by Kav La’Oved, the Hotline for Migrant Workers and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. It referred to two proposed amendments to the Entry to Israel Law which, according to the organizations, restore legislation that was rejected by the High Court of Justice and, at least in one case, makes it harsher than it originally was.

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The first provision deals with the “chaining” of migrant workers by granting them work permits that apply to one specific employer and forbid them from seeking new employment for any reason.

The High Court of Justice rejected this arrangement and described it as “a kind of slavery in modern form.” In its decision on March 30, 2006, the court wrote, “The interior minister may not make a residency permit given to a migrant worker conditional on working for a specific employer.”

As a result, the government introduced new regulations which, at least formally, allowed migrant workers to switch employers as many times as they wanted.

Now, the government is seeking to create a system whereby the interior minister may again limit the number of employers a migrant worker may work for before he is thrown out of the country. The interior minister will also be empowered to restrict the migrant worker to a specific region of the country.

The other change introduced by the economic arrangements bill is the restoration of a provision whereby a foreigner who entered the country illegally and wanted to marry an Israeli, was obliged to leave the country for a “cooling off” period before he could return.

The practice was rejected by the High Court of Justice which wrote that “this policy contradicts the basic understandings of a democratic government which is deeply concerned about human rights.”

However, according to the proposal, the interior minister could now refuse all requests for official status in Israel for anyone who entered the country illegally or who, after entering it legally, remained here after their permit expired. The bill allows the minister to make exceptions in the second case on condition that the would-be immigrant remains outside the country for a period determined by the amount of time he lived in Israel illegally.

The human rights organizations charged that the government twice tried in the past to pass regular legislation containing the same provision. One never reached the Knesset and the other met strong opposition from both the coalition and the opposition.

Now, through the 259- page economic arrangements bill, which contains hundreds of bills and amendments covering a vast array of subjects, the government is trying to pass the amendments without serious debate and by a bill directly linked to the budget which, if defeated, constitutes a vote of no-confidence in the government.


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