Justice Ministry steps up fight against infiltrators
New legislation proposes to criminalize wire transfers sent by illegal migrant workers to their families abroad. Offense will carry penalty of NIS 29,200 or a six-month prison sentence. Eritrean refugee: Bill will endanger lives of our sick, elderly relatives
The Justice Ministry on Sunday published a draft amendment to the "anti-infiltration law" that will criminalize international wire transfers sent by infiltrators.
The amendment proposes a punishment of six months imprisonment or a heavy penalty of some NIS 29,200 (about $7,400).
- Op-ed: Immigration policy, now
'Infiltrators imprisonment plan unrealistic'
Employers of infiltrators to face tougher punishment
The bill also penalizes those who aid with wire transfers, stipulating that these individuals will face a one year prison sentence, or a fine of NIS 29,200 or a sum equal to twice the amount that was transferred, or intended to be transferred, out of Israel – whichever one is higher.
"Reducing the economic incentive is an effective tool to deal with the phenomenon of infiltration," a statement issued by the Justice Ministry read. "In recent years, the State of Israel has been dealing with a wave of African infiltrators, who currently amount to over 60,000 people."
The Ministry also stated that it is estimated that most infiltrators are migrant workers who come to Israel in order to find jobs and send money back to their families.
'Reducing economic incentives' (Photo: EPA)
"Restricting infiltrators from sending wire transfers abroad balances Israel's right to protect itself from the growing phenomenon of infiltration and its duty to respect the human rights of those who live within its boundaries," the statement said.
"This balance is reached by temporarily banning international wire transfers (no limitations have been placed on domestic transactions). Upon departure from Israel, the infiltrators can take the money they earned while working in Israel.
"The ban will not apply to individuals who have been recognized as refugees, or in special humanitarian cases," the statement said.
The bill amendment will be submitted for approval by the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs. If it is approved, the bill will be put up for preliminary reading at the Knesset plenum.
Shortly after learning of the new bill, immigrant aid groups slammed the proposed legislation, saying that it "is an unconstitutional infringement on the asylum seekers' right to property."
Attorney Yonatan Berman, from the Legal Clinic for Immigrant's Rights at the Academic Center of Law and Business, told ynet that "the bill repeats the false mantra that has been used by the government, claiming these are not refugees but migrant workers."
Senera, an Eritrean refugee, commented on the bill, saying that "many of us left behind sick and elderly relatives in refugee camps. If we don’t support them and share with them the little money that we earn in Israel, their lives will be in danger."
According to Senera, "Most of the funds are being transferred via illegal channels and not through banks, and therefore the government should focus on stopping the illegal trade rather than passing this legislation."
Rosen, from the Hotline for Migrant Workers, noted that "lately we've been witnessing an increasing number of asylum seekers who arrive unwillingly from Eritrea. They were kidnapped from refugee camps by Bedouin smugglers who charge a ransom of up to $60,000, which is paid by their relatives abroad.
"After paying the ransom, these people are released from the torture camps and cross over into Israel. They are then forced to work in order to repay their relatives for the ransom money," Rosen noted, adding that the "obstacles Israel is trying to amass are nothing compared to the hardships the refugees face in Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt. Therefore they will likely continue to come here."
Rosen noted that "only by recognizing them as refugees, Israel can receive help from other Western countries, which are larger and can absorb them. Thus far only 157 people have been recognized as refugees."
Over 129 migrants were arrested over the past week and moved to a holding facility as part of the crackdown on illegal immigration. According to data presented in a meeting convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some 928 illegal migrants were detained in June and 2,031 migrants were arrested in May.
During the meeting, Netanyahu said the construction of the border fence will most likely be completed in October. "We have much more to do but we're on the right track," said Netanyahu.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop