Kristine L Ming

No intention to legalize employment for African migrants, MKs told

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

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

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.

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