Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel


photo: ASSAF

Most asylum seekers in Israel are granted a temporary 2(a)5 residency visa, which is not a formal work permit, and explicitly states that “this temporary permit does not constitute a work permit”. The State has promised the Supreme Court that it will not enforce that prohibition and will not fine employers of asylum seekers. Nevertheless, this policy paves the way to abuse of the workers’ rights of asylum seekers.

Generally, asylum seekers are employed in services, such as cleaning, restaurants and hotels, as well as in more intense manual labor in the construction and crafts. In the absence of governmental support and aid mechanisms, asylum seekers in Israel must work at any cost and become a cheap and vulnerable workforce.

In the month of May 2017, the Deposit Lawcame into effect, designed to make it harder to employ asylum seekers, and to activate a harsh economic mechanism to urge them to leave the State of Israel. According to the law, employers of asylum seekers were obliged to deduct 20% from the basic wages given to asylum seekers, and deposit them in a special account. An extra 16% of the salary was deposited by the employers themselves, leaving many of them unlikely to want to hire refugees for work. 
The funds at the deposit account could be claimed by asylum seekers only upon leaving Israel. This law severely undermined the workers’ rights of asylum seekers, as it expropriated a significant amount of their much-needed income. The effects of the law were devastating both economically and socially. It most negatively affected women, children and people with disabilities; since its enactment, the humanitarian distress of the asylum-seeking communities had become worse.
On 23 April 2020, the Israeli High Court ruled against the legislation, annulling the order to deposit 20% from asylum seekers' salaries, or 6% from some those of several vulnerable groups exempted in June 2018. However, the employers' deposit part of 16% remained mandatory. 

ASSAF’s work on the issue of employment of asylum seekers

ASSAF holds that the Israeli government must regulate the work of asylum seekers through formal working permits, protect their labor rights, and encourage their employment - instead of bringing in new labor migrants to Israel every year. The organization takes an active part in legal and public campaigns against the systematic abuse of labor rights of asylum seekers; ASSAF has had a role in the struggle against the ‘Deposit Law’, which sanctioned an entire population to poverty and severe distress - most notably to the weakest groups among it. 

All you need to Know about Employment of asylum seekers