Guest post by Dr. Gilad Nathan. Gilad is a research fellow at the Institute for Immigration and Social Integration, Ruppin Academic Center in Israel. Gilad produces a yearly report on ‘International Migration Israel.’ To receive a copy of the report please contact Gilad. This is the sixth instalment of Border Criminologies’ themed series organised by Maayan Ravid on ‘Border Control and the Criminalisation of African Asylum Seekers in Israel’.

Between 2015 and 2018 the Israeli government pursued a policy of increasing economic burden on all Infiltrators (the legal term for persons who entered irregularly through the border, under the Prevention of Infiltration Law). This policy targets people under protection from deportation, e.g. asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, to encourage them to leave the country. It focused on raising employers’ taxation and enforcing deductions from employee wages, making their employment more expensive and lowering their compensation. Such economic measures were taken with the purpose of effectively excluding this group of people from the labour market, and encouraging them to choose voluntary departure.

However, this is not new. Since mid-2012 the state of Israel sought a solution that would induce the departure of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants through restricting their access to work. Their temporary residence permit allowed them to work while the permit was valid thanks to a court ruling on the matter; albeit under precarious conditions in the workforce, and the constant need to renew their permits. Below I trace specific government actions that facilitate asylum seekers’ exclusion in, and from, the workforce.

In January 2017, the Israeli government passed speedy legislation, establishing new deductions for Eritreans and Sudanese workers by enforcing deposit regulations, while failing to complete a similar process for temporary foreign workers. This legislation enforces deductions of up to 20% from workers’ wages, and a 16% tax on employers (36% total deduction) as a cash deposit (it should be noted that for all other foreign workers in Israel the deduction is only 20% in total, paid by the workplace or employer). In 2018, a decade after a pension for every employee was declared mandatory, most migrant workers in Israel do not benefit from this, as authorities fail to finish the deduction legislation process due to resistance from employers.

People protest the 2017 Deposit Law in Tel Aviv. Sign reads: 3,500 shekels is the amount left for a working mother, after Deposit Law deducted is taken from her (equivalent to 980$, or £750) (Photo Credit: Yotam Ronen, Activestills)

An additional aspect of the economic reality for this non-removable group is their unprotected status in the workforce.  In some cases, their employment is not reported to Israel’s Tax Authority or the National Insurance Institute, and workers depend on the good will of employers to accommodate them and respect their rights. Many remain uninsured for workplace accidents or illnesses. Wages, working conditions and the daily shift length of unprotected workers are far worse than those of protected ones. The new legislation which incurs extra costs for employers is likely to increase the rate of unreported and undocumented employment, as has been highlighted in the past.

The policy of exclusion by economic means has partially succeeded. Employers are willing to replace non-removable African workers with quotas of foreign workers, with official work permits, brought into the country by the Israeli government. For example, in 2016 the tourism industry in the South of Israel received daily quotas for legal entry of 1,500 Jordanian workers from the border. Hundreds of Sudanese and Eritrean workers, who were previously employed ιν τηατ σεψτορ, became unemployed. A January 2018 government resolution adding quotas of 3,500 Palestinian daily workers for hotels (1,000), restaurants (1,500), and nursing institutions (1,000) was passed by the government, with a clear aim to increase the number of asylum seekers leaving Israel. Additional quotas for temporary migrant workers in hotels were set in August 2018 (2,000 in workers in 2 stages). Employers in the restaurant sector now put pressure on the government to give them a quota of temporary migrant workers as well.

As a result, there was a slight growth in the numbers of voluntary departures in the first months of the new policy (the trend changed and numbers decreased in recent months). Yet, employers are heavily dependent on asylum seekers as the unemployment rate in Israel is at a record low.

The growing economic pressure on the non-removable population and its employers is intended to achieve two goals – first, to reduce the profitability of their employment and their disposable income; and second to encourage their voluntary departure from the country. Economic pressure, along with other exclusionary measures, set the stage for the latest policy declared by the government - the threat of unlimited imprisonment or deportation. While the last forced deportation policy was postponed, government policies continue to encourage Eritreans and Sudanese who entered Israel as ‘infiltrators’ to leave. 

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Nathan, G. (2018) Exclusion by Means of Taxation and Deduction. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/10/exclusion-means (Accessed [date]).