The state must return a majority of the deposits it has been collecting from African migrants’ salaries, the High Court of Justice ruled Thursday.
Until now, part of migrants’ salaries were held on deposit by the state and given back to them if and when they left the country as a means to encourage them to leave.
In a 6-1 vote, with Justice Noam Sohlberg dissenting, the High Court declared part of the law regarding migrants’ deposits unconstitutional. It upheld another part.
The High Court struck down the collection of 20% of migrant employees’ salaries by the state, while upholding the state’s collection of an additional part of the salary paid by employers, which made up 16% of the deposit.
Regarding the 20%, any previously collected funds must be immediately returned to migrants, the court ruled.
While the state had a right to encourage the migrants to leave, this provision was too draconian, particularly given that most migrants’ salaries are already very low, the justices said.
Given the low salary, the small deposits being collected and the steady reduction in migrants leaving Israel, it also seemed that the strategy was not succeeding, they said.
There has been an ongoing battle about whether African migrants are mostly in Israel to flee persecution or for better job opportunities and whether they should be integrated or pressured to leave.
In the early 2010s, there were some 60,000 African migrants in Israel. Various detention, employment and deposit policies have reduced the number of migrants in Israel to around 30,000. That number has stayed relatively steady in recent years.