Israel has introduced a new law which allows the withholding of 20 percent of salaries of African asylum seekers which can only be reclaimed after they leave the country.
The so-called “deposit law” comes after unsuccessful threats of illegal deportation of 40,000 African asylum seekers, imprisonment and even suspension of relocation deal by the U.N. refugee agency to send them to Western countries.
Employers of migrants are required to give the state 20 percent of their salaries and to store an additional 16 percent toward a pension fund which will equally be inaccessible until the migrants decide to leave the country.
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Worse, 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.
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$40 million belonging to more than 13,000 migrants and only 400 of those who had left the country voluntarily have withdrawn their money.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.