A new bill that will prohibit undocumented immigrants in Israel from sending money out of the country has become Israeli law.
The law, passed Monday and aimed at deterring emigration from Africa, was originally proposed in late 2012. It forbids the withdrawing of funds by immigrants, dubbed “illegal infiltrators," in amounts larger than twice the minimum wage he or she earned during their time in Israel times the number of months they were in Israel, according to the original press release from October.
The immigrants, many of them migrant workers, would be able to extract the remainder of their funds once they return to their home countries.
It carries a penalty of a 14,000-shekel fine (about $3,800) and up to three months in jail for any immigrant and a 30,000-shekel fine and up to a year in jail for any Israeli citizen helping an immigrant to transfer money out. The only exception to the law is if the immigrant can prove a member of his or her immediate family in their home country is in grave danger.
The law further allows a policeman or customs officer to seize a migrant worker’s property without a warrant, Israel’s Channel Seven said.
When the bill was first proposed, then-Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser told the Jerusalem Post that the bill was an attempt to make Israel look less financially attractive, specifically for African migrants who come to Israel to “remit funds to relatives who have remained in their countries of origin.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the law’s passing on Monday night. “Using the fence and other methods, we stopped the infiltration problem, and the law to prevent the transfer of money is another important addition to this,” he said. “We have blocked the phenomenon of infiltration into Israel. Last month only two infiltrators crossed the border, as opposed to over 2,000 one year ago. Now we are focusing on the infiltrators' departure from Israel.”
According to the Prime Minister’s office, “infiltrators” send up to 500 million shekels out of Israel every year (about $140 million).
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.