Nearly 40,000 African migrants in Israel continue to suffer from the harsh laws of the state after unsuccessful threats of illegal deportation, imprisonment and attacks from law enforcement agencies.
African asylum seekers are still being punished by the “Deposit Law” since May 2017 which requires every employer to deduct a fifth of the migrant’s wages and deposit into a special account which can only be accessible after the African migrant has departed from the country.
In its annual human trafficking report, the United States urged the country to repeal the “deposit law” which might “increases vulnerabilities to trafficking for the irregular African migrant population,” says the State Department and cited by Haaretz.
“The government did not systematically screen for trafficking among the irregular African migrant population and as a result authorities may have penalized unidentified and some identified victims for immigration violations,” the report stated.
It added that some NGOs have reported that some employers withhold the wages and do not deposit them into the special fund. It also pushed some women into prostitution which worsened their vulnerability to trafficking.
The Deposit Law which can be found under Article 4 of the Prevention of Infiltration Law also requires employers of African migrants to save an additional 16 percent of migrant employee wages toward a pension fund which will also be inaccessible until the migrants decide to leave the country.
Employers of migrants have also been directed to pay an additional tax to discourage them from employing the asylum seekers who are already grappling with finding jobs.
Cases have been filed against the law up to the Supreme Court level and it is still under review as data submitted to the High Court of Justice shows that half of the asylum seekers and refugees earn less than the minimum wage, reports Haaretz.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, Sabine Haddad was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the seized salaries serve as “a proper starting point for the beginning of the migrants’ new lives outside of Israel.”
She added that Israel is currently holding $40 million belonging to more than 13,000 migrants and only 400 of those who had left the country voluntarily have withdrawn their money.
The law which was passed last year is being challenged in court as the migrants continue to live in poverty and work odd jobs to be able to survive the harsh treatment from the Israeli government.
Earlier this year, an Israeli court stopped the country’s plans to deport asylum seekers after a legal challenge instituted by a group of migrants from Eritrea and Sudan.
Israel had said in a letter that the migrants had 60 days to accept the offer to leave the country to an unnamed destination, widely believed to be Rwanda, in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket. It added that migrants who refuse to leave by April 1 will be incarcerated indefinitely.
Human Rights Watch condemned the planned unlawful asylum seeker detention and called on Israel to abandon the new policy aimed at thwarting the legitimate right of the migrants to seek protection.
Since 2009, only eight Eritreans and two Sudanese have been recognized as refugees in Israel. Another 200 Sudanese from Darfur were recently granted humanitarian status.
Currently, 27,500 Eritreans and 7,800 Sudanese are seeking asylum status to start a living in Israel. The African Union is yet to take action on the fate of these Africans who are in distress.