The Minister of Interior, Ayelet Shaked, has announced a new policy that bans the employment of asylum seekers






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The Minister of Interior, Ayelet Shaked, has announced a new policy that is due to take effect on October 1, 2022. This policy bans the employment of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in 17 Israeli cities and towns, including Tel Aviv and others where most asylum seekers live. In addition to the geographic limitations, under this law asylum seekers will be further limited in employment opportunities, allowing only 4 industry sectors: hotels, construction, agriculture and nursing institutes (It also permits employment in restaurants, but only if the asylum seeker was employed in this sector until June 2022). The procedure will also apply to Ukrainian refugees, even though they were only recently permitted to work in Israel.

The new procedure will significantly effect the refugees and asylum seeker communities, as well as the Israeli public as a whole:
  • This new procedure is expected to directly affect the livelihoods of asylum seekers from Africa, who have been living in Israel legally for more than a decade. It will place them in a vulnerable situation with their employers, and possibly expose them to abuse and exploitation in the workplace, including an increased risk of trafficking and prostitution. The new procedure is expected to dismantle the fragile fabric of life for asylum seekers, and lead to a significant economic decline. The “strongest”, including the few who have managed to find well-paid and stable employment, will lose their livelihoods and their past efforts to survive and progress will go to waste. The “weak”, those who are unable to support themselves, and who due to the absence of a national social support system that includes allowances and welfare services, rely on the “strong” in the community, are expected to crash.
  • This new procedure will directly affect many Israelis immediately. It will negatively affect employers, especially during these times when most sectors in the economy are short of workers. Neglecting asylum seekers, particularly a policy that limits their sources of income, affects Israeli society as a whole, and especially people who live in the same areas as asylum seekers.
  • This new policy is contrary to the situation in other civilized countries that do impose some restrictions on asylum seekers, but do not deprive people of their livelihoods after more than a decade in the country. Geographical restrictions in other countries are not permanent, but limited in time and accompanied by social assistance and support, ensuring optimal integration of the asylum seekers in the places that have received them. This new regulation is part of Israel’s non-existent asylum seeker policy, and is another example of the manipulation of asylum seekers.
  • The declared aim of the procedure – “to prevent foreigners settling in the city centers, and to make it easier for the residents of those cities” – is fundamentally invalid. The procedure will not achieve this. The ban is on working in the cities, not on residing in them. The real purpose of the policy is to emphasize the temporary nature of asylum seekers in Israel. It will not prevent them from living in the cities but will cause unemployment and poverty. This goal is illegal and unethical!
  • The new procedure disregards the Supreme Court’s directives on this issue, and refers to a decision that was imposed on people released from the Holot prison facility, restricting them to residence in 7 cities only. There is no connection between the Court’s directives then and this new draconian procedure. This new law applies broadly to the entire refugee population in 17 cities in Israel, with no reference to the amount of time they have been residents in Israel.

As soon as the procedure was published, we at ASSAF began to prepare our response, and together with our partners, we have appealed to the Interior Minister with a demand to cancel this law. If the appeal is rejected, we will consider a petition to the High Court and other steps.

It is time for Israel to formulate an orderly, clear, and coherent protection policy, that includes respectful treatment of all asylum seekers living here under international protection against extradition, and to grant them all the rights they deserve. We will not stop advocating for them until that happens.
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