New law to limit money migrants can send abroad

PM Netanyahu praises new law, while NGOs and MKs slam the bill, calling it a sign of Israel’s toughened stance on migrants.

June 4, 2013 01:10
2 minute read.
Aftrican migrants pack after night in TA park

Aftrican migrants pack after night in TA park_370. (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised a law that passed at the Knesset on Monday night, saying a ban on illegal foreign workers from taking their money out of Israel “is of great importance” for Israel.

“Using the fence and other methods, we stopped the infiltration problem, and the law to prevent the transfer of money is another important addition to this,” Netanyahu said.

The law, which the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee approved for its second and third reading in October 2012, would severely limit the ability of migrants to send money back to their home countries.

The law means that an illegal migrant will not be able to send property or money outside of Israel, unless it is worth less than 70 percent of the minimum wage, multiplied by the number of months he or she has been in Israel. Anything else would need approval by the state.

The version of the bill approved for the second and third reading in October would allow the state to sentence migrants to three months in prison if they illegally transfer money out of Israel, while Israelis caught sending the money for them could face up to a year in jail. The bill also allowed the state to fine offenders double the amount of money they try to illegally transfer.

NGOs and lawmakers criticized the bill, calling it a sign of Israel’s toughened stance on migrants, with the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Israel at the time William Tall saying he knew of no such precedent of a country determining what an asylum seeker can do with the money he earns.

When first presenting the proposal for the bill, cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser said the government believes it will reduce Israel’s attractiveness for migrants.

The vote on the bill comes a day after the High Court heard a petition challenging an amendment to the anti-infiltration law that allows the state to jail those caught illegally entering the country for at least three years.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), one of several organizations that presented the petition in October 2012, said Monday that the government has avoided dealing with the asylum- seekers issue, choosing regressive laws like the Law Against Infiltration amendment instead of hearing the asylum claims of migrants.

“Successive governments have chosen to do nothing, allowing the asylum seekers to remain in Israel but refusing to take steps to regulate their status or allow them to work and support themselves,” ACRI said in a statement on Monday.

“The government has spent billions of shekels on a giant detention center in the Negev, and passed a law that authorizes the indefinite detention – without a trial – of persons who entered the country illegally... The state’s interest in deterring new asylum seekers from arriving in Israel is neither a sufficient nor constitutionally valid justification for the detention of those who have already arrived,” the statement added.

During the hearing on Sunday, a representative of the state said a third-party country had been found that is willing to absorb the majority of illegal Eritrean immigrants, but would not name the country or the conditions of the agreement.

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