By Amit Acco, Partner |

The Israeli Ministry of Interior published a regulation that prohibits the employment of asylum seekers in 17 cities in Israel.

The regulation which will come into effect at the beginning of October 2022, prohibits the employment of “infiltrators and asylum seekers” in the Tel Aviv, Eilat, Netanya, Ashdod, and Petah Tikva districts. A total of 17 cities in Israel are included in the employment ban, including Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Givatayim, and Holon.

The restrictions exempt parents of a minor from studying in the Israeli education system and those over the age of 60. The new procedure exempts from the employment ban the following industries: restaurants, hotels, nursing, agriculture, and construction.

However additional instruction was issued specifically and exclusively to the Restaurant industry whereby only those who worked in the restaurant field until last June could continue to work in the restaurant field. This means that new asylum seekers entering Israel, including those coming from Ukraine, will not be able to work in restaurants, and existing asylum seekers will not be able to leave the industry in which they work to join a restaurant or cafe.

s of June 2022, there were 26,000 asylum seekers and infiltrators in Israel, as defined by the Authority. 76% of them were from Eritrea, and 14% were from Sudan.  The rest are from other African countries and the world.

The regulations published by the Population and Immigration Authority come as a result of the High Court of Justice ruling, according to which the Interior Ministry’s 2015 decision to limit the work of asylum seekers is proportionate. The  High Court of Justice ordered the Ministry to regulate a procedure regarding the manner of imposing the restrictions, which would include options to appeal against its decision.

On 11 Se[tember 2022, it was advised of an appeal that have been submitted to the District Court (Cenetr)  In the petition, the several asylum seekers petitioned, claim that the new instructions will be against their human dignity and the right to equality, against their freedom of occupation and their right to a minimal existence with dignity. In addition they argue that the decision was obtained without authority and in contradiction to government decisions. Attached to the petition, the applicants attached  a letter from the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, Mathias LaRota, in which he claims that the procedure is in contradiction to Israel’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and that “it will have a devastating impact on many asylum seekers.”

In the letter written by the new UN Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, which is attached to the petition, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel states that the procedure

“will cause despair and push many of them towards the worst social alternatives for their livelihood. This will also have a negative effect on the many Israeli businesses and industries that rely on the employment of the asylum seekers.”

The United Nations Commission claims that the procedure violates both parts of Article 17 of the Convention, which prohibits its member states from imposing restrictions on the employment of refugees who have been in the country legally for more than three years. The Commission emphasized that the right to work is related to human dignity and is necessary for refugees to survive.

Director General of the Population Authority Tomer Moskovitch clarified that the procedure has two goals. One, is to direct the asylum seekers to employment in areas where there is a shortage of workers. The second, is to make it easier for the population of South Tel Aviv and other cities and to encourage dispersal in other areas.

“Instead of establishing draconian restrictions that would oblige infiltrators to live in specific areas, the procedure works in the opposite way and encourages them to move to other areas by providing more diverse options for employment outside of the Tel Aviv district and those other cities.

The Central District Court is now expected to order the Population Authority to submit its response to the petition, and then schedule a hearing regarding it according to the procedure. The asylum seekers are hoping for the success of the petition, and that it will in turn lead to the cancellation of the procedure.