Refugees, activists and employers have condemned the Israeli government for requiring asylum seekers to deposit 20 per cent of their salaries with the authorities to be repaid only when they leave the country, Haaretz has reported.
According to Kav L’Oved from the Workers Hotline, the new law which came into effect on 1 May also requires employers to deposit another 16 per cent of such salaries into a state fund. He explained:
The State of Israel knows it can’t forcibly expel asylum seekers who come from Eritrea and Sudan and doesn’t want to give them refugee status,…so it is doing everything it can to have them leave ‘voluntarily’
Israel had more than 22,000 asylum seekers within its borders as of the end of February, mainly from Ukraine, Georgia, Eritrea and Sudan. Under Section 4 of the “Preventing Infiltrators and Ensuring Departure” law, asylum seekers have to pay the deposit whilst working in Israel and can only collect the money deposited under the scheme at a designated bank inside Ben Gurion International Airport to ensure that they leave the country.
Haaretz pointed out that 1,400 asylum seekers have left Israel for North America and Europe. Some 900 went to Canada; 140 went to the United States; and 350 travelled to Europe, mainly Sweden or the Netherlands.
In January, around 300 African refugees and asylum seekers demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem demanding an end to internment at detention facilities and expulsions to other African countries. Media reports say that more than 10,000 asylum seekers – mainly Sudanese and Eritreans – have been held at the Holot facility for periods ranging between one and three years.