African migrants protest deportations 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Monday approved for
its second and third reading in the plenum two amendments that would limit the
ability of migrants to send money back to their home countries.
two amendments, which relate to the Prevention of Infiltration Law (1954) and
the anti-money laundering law, are approved by the full Knesset, an illegal
migrant will not be able to send property or money outside of Israel while in
the country unless it is worth less than 70 percent of the minimum wage times
the number of months he was in Israel.
Anything else would need to be
approved by the state.
Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) said after
the vote, “I agreed with a heavy heart to a vote whose goal is to lower the
phenomenon of infiltration of migrant workers, but which stands to hurt
Cohen also said the government must ensure that those migrants
who leave the country can do so with the property and the money that they earned
here. He also called on the government to hold biannual meetings to examine the
implementation of the legislation and to work to enact “clear decisions on the
standing of refugees in Israel.”
Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser told the
meeting that the point of the bill is to reduce the attractiveness of Israel as
a destination for migrant workers. The bill is not meant to take away the
minimal wages that workers saved here, but to reduce the phenomenon of migrants
working as couriers to send back money on behalf of other people who are in the
country illegally, he said.
Under the bill, illegal migrants caught
trying to send money or belongings out of the country illegally could be
sentenced to three months in prison, while Israelis who are caught sending the
money for them could get up to a year in jail.
The bill also allows for
the state to exact a heavy fine on offenders, either tens of thousands of
shekels or double the amount the offender tried to transfer.
MK Dov Henin
(Hadash) said during the meeting that the bill would push migrants into a life
of crime, and revealed “how much hostility the current government has toward the
basic Jewish traditions.”
He also said that he would be willing to
support the legislation only if it was used against those who the state had
proven were not refugees, adding that the state has not devised a way to prove
In July, the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a press
release titled “Government Increases Economic Measures to Deal with Infiltration
into Israel,” in which it announced intentions to amend the “infiltrators law”
to include a prohibition on the transfer of funds from Israel by illegal African
“The work of the interministerial team showed that infiltrators
in Israel remit over NIS 500 million annually to their countries of origin, via
proper channels and illegally, via couriers. The team’s data also showed that
10,000 infiltrators have bank accounts in Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office
said in July.