Israel to limit money migrants can send back home
Amendments are meant to reduce number of migrants; foreign violators could get three months in jail, Israeli intermediaries a year.
Photo: Ben Hartman
The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Monday approved for its second and third reading in the plenum two amendments that would limit the ability of migrants to send money back to their home countries.
If the two amendments, which relate to the Prevention of Infiltration Law (1954) and the anti-money laundering law, are approved by the full Knesset, an illegal migrant will not be able to send property or money outside of Israel while in the country unless it is worth less than 70 percent of the minimum wage times the number of months he was in Israel.
Anything else would need to be approved by the state.
Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) said after the vote, “I agreed with a heavy heart to a vote whose goal is to lower the phenomenon of infiltration of migrant workers, but which stands to hurt refugees.”
Cohen also said the government must ensure that those migrants who leave the country can do so with the property and the money that they earned here. He also called on the government to hold biannual meetings to examine the implementation of the legislation and to work to enact “clear decisions on the standing of refugees in Israel.”
Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser told the meeting that the point of the bill is to reduce the attractiveness of Israel as a destination for migrant workers. The bill is not meant to take away the minimal wages that workers saved here, but to reduce the phenomenon of migrants working as couriers to send back money on behalf of other people who are in the country illegally, he said.
Under the bill, illegal migrants caught trying to send money or belongings out of the country illegally could be sentenced to three months in prison, while Israelis who are caught sending the money for them could get up to a year in jail.
The bill also allows for the state to exact a heavy fine on offenders, either tens of thousands of shekels or double the amount the offender tried to transfer.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said during the meeting that the bill would push migrants into a life of crime, and revealed “how much hostility the current government has toward the basic Jewish traditions.”
He also said that he would be willing to support the legislation only if it was used against those who the state had proven were not refugees, adding that the state has not devised a way to prove such claims.
In July, the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a press release titled “Government Increases Economic Measures to Deal with Infiltration into Israel,” in which it announced intentions to amend the “infiltrators law” to include a prohibition on the transfer of funds from Israel by illegal African migrants.
“The work of the interministerial team showed that infiltrators in Israel remit over NIS 500 million annually to their countries of origin, via proper channels and illegally, via couriers. The team’s data also showed that 10,000 infiltrators have bank accounts in Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in July.