Success of ‘deposit law’ suggests Israel’s African illegals are economic migrants

New numbers presented to Israel’s Supreme Court by the government show that a ‘deposit law’ appears to be effective in motivating illegal migrants to leave the country.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A two-year-old law enacted to encourage illegal migrants to leave Israel is working, said the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) in response to a High Court petition against the law, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday.

The Deposit Law, which came into force in May 2017, requires employers of illegal migrants to deposit 20% of their base pay in a special government fund and to add another 16% to the account. Migrants who decide to leave Israel receive the funds upon departure.

PIBA said there has been a steady rise in migrants withdrawing their money before exiting the country. If in 2017 fewer than five percent of those leaving had made withdrawals, by the first half of 2018, the number stood at 36 percent — 369 out of 1,010 people. Their average withdrawal was NIS 11,500. In total, said the state authority, the fund has some NIS 300 million waiting to be disbursed to those who leave.

The willingness of the African migrants to leave Israel in order to collect their earnings suggests that they are economic migrants, as the government claims.

The motivation for the law was to reduce their incentive to remain in Israel, as Israel’s Supreme Court had refused to allow the state to incarcerate those who entered the country illegally or to deport them to third countries.

The law’s initiator, Jonathan Yakobovitch, director of the Center for Israeli Migration Policy, said, “The data prove that the law fulfills its purpose, and as time passes and the money accumulates, we will see an even more significant exit…. It has become the only tool to get the illegals out of Israel.”

The data was presented in the context of a petition against the law that was brought to the High Court of Justice by a group of Israeli human rights organizations.

The petitioners have also shown that the state is not enforcing the law, with thousands of employers deducting 20 percent from the migrants’ wages without depositing it into the fund or making deposits covering only part of the duration of their workers’ employment.