Israeli human rights organizations including NIF grantee Zazim – Community Action are fighting for the rights of Israel’s asylum seekers during the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under current Israeli law, nearly one third of every paycheck that asylum seeker earns is held as a deposit by the Israeli government until such time as they leave the country. This cruel policy is intended to incentivize them to leave Israel.
However, under current circumstances, with most businesses closed and asylum seekers being ineligible for government aid, many of Israel’s 31,000 asylum seekers are destitute and unable to buy food or pay their rent.
Right-wing MKs are blocking legislation that would allow unemployed asylum seekers to withdraw up to $752 per month from their deposit funds to meet their immediate needs. Zazim has collected nearly 10,000 signatories on a petition demanding that the Knesset pass this legislation immediately.
Right-wing MK Ayelet Shaked has suggested that unemployed refugees be forced to work in agriculture or nursing. Other have proposed that they be allowed to withdraw money from their deposit account but must pay it back with interest.
NIF grantee Kav La’Oved – Worker’s Hotline spoke out against these further draconian measures, saying “Not only is the asylum seekers’ money being robbed but now the government will lend it back to them with interest.”
Photo by Yossi Zamir