Rights Groups Ask Court to Scrap Deductions From Asylum Seekers' Salaries

New law allows asylum seekers to receive the sum once they leave the country, but human rights groups say it forces them to live in greater poverty.

Migrant workers and asylum seekers shop at south Tel Aviv's Hatikva market, August 11, 2015.
Moti Milrod

Human rights groups petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday to cancel a law that will require deducting 20 percent each month from asylum seekers’ salaries for a deposit they may reclaim once they leave the country.

The Knesset passed the law two months ago, and it is scheduled to take effect on May 1. It would require employers to deposit another 16 percent of the salary, while the state would be entitled to claim a substantial portion of the sum if the asylum seeker fails to meet a deadline for leaving the country.

The Kav Laoved NGO and Tel Aviv University’s Refugee Rights Clinic submitted the appeal in the names of six human-rights groups and seven asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan. The petition says the law is intended to force asylum seekers into worse poverty under the guise of promised social benefits.

“Instead of equal rights, this is bad discrimination in net wages, alongside a blow to property and the ability to live in dignity. Rather than defending social rights, this draconian penal mechanism erodes them,” reads the petition, submitted by attorneys Eldad Kahana, Anat Ben David and Michal Tager.

Attached to the petition are affidavits by asylum seekers who say they will have trouble bearing the economic burden if their salaries are cut by 20 percent, while they cannot return to their native lands where their lives would be in danger.

“One of the weakest groups of workers in Israel will wind up earning, most likely, substantially less than the minimum wage,” the petition says.

“A population group which in any case has a difficult existential burden without any help from the state will be bearing the burden of all health benefits This group will now be pushed to an even more difficult life of poverty.”