Updated Regulations for Hiring Asylum Seekers in Israel – (September 2022)
New regulations for hiring asylum seekers in Israel were recently issued. The change is scheduled to take effect in January 2023. The new regulation is expected to significantly affect the areas of Israel in which asylum seekers can work, as well as the employment sectors available to them. In this article, attorney Irena Rosenberg, a specialist in Israeli immigration law from our office, explains the new regulations and their implications.
According to Interior Ministry 2021 data, the population of asylum seekers in Israel numbers over 28,000, The decisive majority (about 21,000 of these asylum seekers) have come from Eritrea, about 5,000 more from Sudan, over 2,000 from other countries in Africa, and some 400 more from other countries throughout the world. These numbers, however, do not reflect the current situation, since they do not include the recent asylum seekers from Ukraine who have come to Israel in the wake of the war in their country.
Although most asylum seekers in Israel hold a temporary residency permit, allowing them to stay in Israel, the country has set and continues to set various restrictions on their ability to work legally. In June 2022 these restrictions were joined by a new regulation of the Population and Immigration Authority, expected to take effect in 01.01.23. It sets restrictions on the geographical areas in Israel in which asylum seekers are permitted to work, as well as restricting the employment sectors in which the refugees can be employed.
What are the restrictions on employing asylum seekers according to the new regulation?
The new regulation states that foreign citizens considered by law to be asylum seekers, or those who infiltrated Israel illegally, will not be permitted to work in towns and settlements of the Tel Aviv district (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Or Yehuda, Bnei Brak, Bat Yam, Givataim, Herzliya, Holon, Kiryat Ono, Ramat Gan, Ramat Hasharon, Azor and Kfar Shmariyahu), nor in Eilat, Ashdod, Jerusalem, Netanya or Petach Tikva. The exception is if they are hired in one of the following sectors: construction, agriculture, institutional nursing, or the hotel or restaurant sector. Regarding the restaurant sector, the permit only applies to someone who was already employed in the field before June 2022. That is, it will not be possible to hire new asylum seekers in this sector, including asylum seekers from Ukraine who did not begin their employment before then.
Are there cases in which asylum seekers may be exempt from the restrictions of the new regulation?
The new regulation does not apply to minors, parents of minors who are enrolled in the Israeli educational system, or anyone aged over 60. Moreover, the regulation allows for asylum seekers to claim individual circumstances that justify nullifying any of the above restrictions and conditions to their permit. Such refugees can bring their claim to the headquarters of the Enforcement and Foreigners Office of the Population and Immigration Authority. The petition can be made by the asylum seekers themselves or by someone else in their name. For example, it is possible to petition via an attorney who represents them, or their employer who is petitioning in their name. However, the regulation states that employers cannot claim damage to their business or their income, but only bring the claims of the asylum seekers themselves. To petition the office headquarters, all relevant documents and references must be attached to the application. It is important to note that the Interior Ministry’s decision can be appealed.
Is the new regulation on employing asylum seekers constitutionally valid?
The new regulation has drawn widespread criticism, particularly among restaurateurs and those operating public institutions in the Central region, who have hired asylum seekers in cleaning work, maintenance, etc. Many have petitioned the Interior Minister to change the decree, but as of now no changes have been made in the regulation, and it is expected to take effect as planned. Note that the regulation follows a Supreme Court ruling, in which it was decided that geographic restrictions on asylum seekers are considered proportional. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this ruling dealt with specific restrictions, not expansive ones that cover many geographical regions and employment sectors. Thus it is possible that the Court will rule differently if the issue is brought before it again in different cases. Our office will continue to track the issue closely and post updates on our website.
Changes in the regulations for employing asylum seekers – contact an Israeli immigration law specialist
In this article we have explained the new regulation on employing asylum seekers, and the geographical and employment restrictions that it imposes. If you have specific questions on this issue, or if you need legal assistance, our office is available to you. Attorneys from our office, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have extensive experience in representing asylum seekers and their employers before the Interior Ministry and various courts in Israel. You can contact us at the telephone numbers and email address below.
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