No intention to legalize employment for African migrants, MKs told

Decision passed along by attorney from the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority.

African migrant woman (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
African migrant woman
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The government has no intention to allow African migrants to work here legally because of the message it would send, an attorney from the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority said on Wednesday during a hearing held by the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss steps the government is taking in the wake of a High Court of Justice decision to revoke the amendment of the Infiltrators Law, which allowed for the detention without trial of people caught illegally entering the country.
One idea that had been mentioned recently was running an open facility in the south, which migrants could leave for periods of time, although they would not be permitted to work legally.
“An open holding facility run by the Israel Prisons Service where there are a night watch and a head count and where the detainees are not allowed to work sounds like jail,” committee head Michal Rozin (Meretz) said, regarding that proposal.
One government official said that within the framework of the High Court decision, different ideas were being discussed regarding ways to encourage the migrants to leave the country.
One suggestion was to give the migrants a one-time $5,000 payment to leave.
“No more migrants are entering the country, but now we have to ask ourselves what to do with the thousands of people already here,” the official said. “The goal is to encourage voluntary repatriation, and we are looking at different suggestions.”
No decision has been made yet, the official said.
Regarding the $5,000 payment proposal, south Tel Aviv representative Ovad Hugi said that for such a sum, residents of south Tel Aviv would themselves agree to move to the detention facility. Hugi, at a previous committee meeting, had presented his identity card to MK Miri Regev, saying he would like to exchange it for an asylum-seeker card.
Rozin discussed the concept of allowing illegal migrants, who cannot be deported, the right to work legally in the country. Also present at the meeting was a representative of cleaning companies in Israel, Ilan Shimoni, who said that the custodian industry is in need of some 10,000 workers in central Israel alone, in the area between Gadera at the southern perimeter and Hadera at the northern edge. A hotel union representative said his industry would employ some 3,000 people, and a construction representative said they have 20,000 jobs available at any given time but they can accept only legal employees.
Rozin closed the meeting by vowing that the committee will present to the government an employment plan that would focus on issues of welfare, education, internal security, and improved rights for asylum seekers.
“At the moment, no side is having their needs met. We must find a solution for the situation for the sake of the residents of south Tel Aviv and all of the country,” he said.