Migrants from South Sudanese preparing to fly home, June 17, 2012.
Migrants from South Sudanese preparing to fly home, June 17, 2012. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Eliyahu Hershkovitz
African migrants being deported from Israel. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Tomer Appelbaum
African migrants waiting for day labor. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

The Kadima party plans to propose a far-reaching migrants bill to the cabinet Sunday, aiming to regulate the presence in Israel of foreign migrant workers and foreign nationals hoping to enter the country to be with family.

Under the proposed law, migrants in the country could not apply for citizenship, but those here for an extended period could in some cases apply for permanent residency. The bill combines tougher standards for permission to enter the country for long periods along with greater leniency for those who enter legally.

Over the past decade, according to estimates, between 250,000 and 400,000 foreign migrant workers have entered the country. An additional 130,000 non-Israelis have entered the country for family reunification purposes, primarily Palestinians.

The bill describes a history of "massive migration" to the country in the absence of clear government policy, leading to legal uncertainty and ad hoc decision making. This has harmed the country's interests at times infringed on migrants' human rights, it adds.

The bill would permit spouses of migrants to enter the country if they are 23 or older, declare allegiance to the state and have a monthly income that equals or exceeds the Israeli average wage.

Regarding migrant workers, the law would set quotas based on the country's need for workers in jobs where they are not enough Israeli takers. Entry visas would be given only to workers who demonstrate they do not intend to settle here permanently. Migrant workers would generally be allowed to stay here two years with a possible extension of up to three more.

Foreign migrants here for at least 10 years could in some cases begin applying for permanent residency, which would take three years for approval. Migrant workers would have to prove they did not require social welfare services, show some knowledge of Hebrew and declare their allegiance to the state.

The law would restrict migrants' work visas to one kind of job in one region, though they could switch employers within region with Interior Ministry approval. Kadima MKs say the bill would free migrants from being legally tied to a single authorized employer, which the High Court of Justice has found unconstitutional.

The bill holds that once a comprehensive law for migrants and their families is passed, the state will be able to avoid deporting the children of illegal migrants, with all the culture shock that involves.

Meanwhile, four human rights groups petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday to stop the interior and social affairs ministries from deporting 20 abused children to South Sudan together with their abusive parents. The first deportation flight to South Sudan reportedly included a father taking his three children who had been removed from his custody months ago because he had abused them.