Salaries of asylum seekers who have been officially recognized as victims of trafficking and slavery are still being docked despite a waver they are entitled to.
Those who have been recognized as victims of trafficking underwent such ordeals when they were fleeing their homelands. In most cases, the abuse they suffered happened in Egypt's Sinai before they were able to seek refuge in Israel.
A controversial law requiring asylum seekers working in Israel to deposit 20 percent of their salaries into a closed account they can only access when they leave the country went into effect in May 2017. The law not only requires that a fifth of asylum seekers’ salaries be set aside but also mandates that employers, mainly restaurants and hotels, allocate another 16 percent into the fund.
Victims of human trafficking or slavery are entitled to a reduced deduction of 6 percent instead of 20, but bureaucratic hurdles are standing in their way and many have not been receiving the discount. Kav La’Oved, a hotline that protects worker’s rights, has filed dozens of complaints on behalf of victims of human trafficking and slavery who have not received the discount.
The law providing the 6 percent rate for asylum seekers who were victims of human trafficking or slavery was approved by the Knesset in July and went into effect with November’s wages, which are paid in December. The new law also provides the 6 percent rate to men over the age of 60 as well as to women of any age, juveniles and those suffering from serious illness.
The 400 recognized victims of human trafficking are actually among the smaller, but most vulnerable groups entitled to the 6 percent rate, Noa Kaufman, a manager at Kav La’Oved noted. But this vulnerable minority is facing the most hurdles, which means they are continuing to lose 20 percent of their salaries.
Unlike women and older men, which the Population and Immigration Authority automatically recognizes as being entitled to the lower rate, victims of human trafficking are required to produce confirmation from the police of their entitlement. But in addition, Kav La’Oved has found that in violation of the rules, human trafficking victims have also been facing an additional bureaucratic hurdle, required to also present an authorization from the Population Authority’s unit that enforces the law on foreigners in Israel.
Employees who have confirmation from the police have contacted Kav La’Oved for guidance on how to secure the reduced rate, but the organization has been unable to get an answer from the Population Authority. When Haaretz enquired into the matter, the Population Authority said that no confirmation other than that from the police is required.
Data that the state provided to the High Court of Justice show that the 20 percent deduction, which the asylum seekers receive when they leave the country, push the available wages of half of the asylum seekers in Israel below the minimum wage.
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