It is with a troubled mind that I sit down to write this note. The question I keep asking myself is what we at JACC can do to meet this new, disturbing challenge.
Let me explain; From May 1st, there came into effect a new amendment to the anti-infiltration law, whereby employers will now deduct 20% of the African asylum seekers salary and deposit it into a special bank account that will be opened under their name at Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank. The money from the account will be released to them only upon leaving Israel.
In addition, employers will also deposit 16%. This amount will replace the components of the pension and severance pay that they are entitled to it.
What does this all mean? In simple terms, it means that the community of African asylum seekers in Israel, which already lives below the breadline, will be 20% poorer! It means that they no longer have pension or severance pay.
I know that the government wants them out, but is this the way to do it, to allow their children to be hungry in the meantime? I am not a naive person, but still I do not understand this cruelty. We keep on hearing that this is the home of the Jewish people, if so where are the Jewish values? Where are the values of ‘Tzdaka’, of taking care of the weak? We are instructed in the bible to not ‘neglect to show hospitality to strangers’, where is this?
There are now only 40,000 asylum seekers in Israel, for the most part they are strong, hardworking people who want nothing more than to have some peace and stability in their lives. They have nowhere to go, although they dream of it, they cannot go back to their country of origin, the alternative that Israel suggest for them; to go to Uganda or Rwanda, is not a solution as they are not welcome there and there too they will be without legal status.
I believe that with a small amount of compassion and acceptance from the decision makers, the ‘problem’ of the African asylum seekers in Israel is soluble.
Of course, the NGO’s oppose this amendment and are trying to cancel it, Kav LaOved - Worker's Hotline, together with partner organizations, have appealed to the Supreme Court and are now waiting for a ruling.
In the meantime, as I said at the beginning of this note, I am very troubled about the devastation this will have on the community and especially on the weaker members; the sick, the old, the children, single mothers etc.
Needless to say, we at JACC are doing our best to find ways to assist the Jerusalem community. Our rights-advocacy coordinator and her volunteers are helping the community in understanding the new law and explaining their rights, our social worker and her team are visiting the families; giving emotional and practical support, we are arranging food packages and where necessary giving small financial assistance. We are looking for more volunteers to help in this endeavor; if you or anyone you know are looking for an interesting and rewarding challenge, please contact us.
As always, we rely on our friends and supporters and we hope that you will help us, to make the lives of this community just a bit more bearable.