Israel's Interior Ministry Warns Against Hiring Asylum Seekers

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An Interior Ministry ad reads: 'Employing illegal workers in housekeeping and renovations is forbidden!'
An Interior Ministry ad reads: 'Employing illegal workers in housekeeping and renovations is forbidden!'Credit: Screenshot / Population and Immigration Authority Facebook page

The Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority has launched an advertising campaign warning employers not to hire asylum seekers. The campaign was initiated, in the form of ads on the authority's Facebook page, even though the government has agreed to allow Eritrean and Sudanese citizens to work and not to enforce the ban on employment stated in their residency permits, as per a decision of the High Court of Justice, human rights groups say.

The authority said in response the ads were merely “a reminder that it is forbidden to employ any type of foreign worker without the appropriate permit,” and clarified that they concern caregivers who abandon their clients and take on other work, such as in cleaning and renovations, before the upcoming Passover holiday.

Many asylum seekers have complained over the years that potential employers are afraid to hire them because of their problematic legal status. The rights organizations are concerned that the ad campaign will lead to the firing of many asylum seekers. The groups say that except for those held at the Holot detention facility in the Negev, asylum seekers are legally allowed to work and earn a living.

“Do you employ a foreign worker in housekeeping or renovations? You won’t get away with it!” the ad warns. “The Population and Immigration Authority is increasing its enforcement of the law on hiring foreign workers and infiltrators,” the text reads, warning employers about heavy fines and indictments for hiring illegal foreign workers.

The authority's Facebook page has a link to the government portal for employers, with details on the law. One section refers to holders of a certain type of visa – 2(A) 5 – which most Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers hold. On that document it is written that "this temporary permit does not constitute an employment license." It is possible that employers will make a mistake and think they are not allowed to employ these asylum seekers, in contrast to the High Court ruling.

The Holot detention facility. Except for those being held there, rights groups say, asylum seekers are legally allowed to work and earn a living. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

“The Population Authority is hiding from the public the commitment not to enforce the ban on employing asylum seekers and on all Eritrean and Sudanese citizens,” said Asaf Weitzen, a lawyer with the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, who notes that the campaign does not explain this commitment clearly either.

“This campaign could bring about an unnecessary wave of layoffs and affect the employment of asylum seekers, with all the implications involved. We must demand that the authority provide more reliable information,” Weitzen said, adding that he expects the authority to correct and clarify the ads.

The Population and Immigration Authority said in response: “It seems those who raise such claims have a hard time with reading comprehension or are trying to send a distorted message.”

It adds, moreover, that it is mainly trying to make that “illegal employment of foreign workers or infiltrators is forbidden. This means legal employment is permitted. It is a shame that those who raise these claims are diverting the focus from the phenomenon that caused us to launch the campaign: the phenomenon whereby, before Passover, hundreds of people receiving nursing care find themselves abandoned because their caregivers prefer to work in cleaning or renovations in more convenient circumstances. This is the real problem behind the campaign.”

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