Since 2016 there has been a steep increase in the number of Ukrainians and Georgians applying for asylum in Israel. Data collected by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM) shows that Israeli entities, including human resource companies, play an important part in this phenomenon by spreading misinformation in the Ukraine and Georgia about the possibility of working legally in Israel.
Due to the backlog at the Refugee Status Determination Unit (RSD) at the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) in Tel Aviv, the processing of asylum applications can be very slow. As a result, the regulatory system for bringing migrant workers to Israel is being bypassed. A recently released report by HRM reveals new trends in human trafficking which exploit the asylum system in Israel.
Based on raw data and other information collected by HRM, companies – among them Israeli, openly publish misleading information about the options for Ukrainian and Georgian citizens to get a visa to work in Israel. For example, one advertisement for workers in Israel reads: “In the center of the country, for Ukrainians, Russians and Moldovans with refugee status, housing is provided free of charge; travel to work is also free; a salary of 5,500 shekels is paid directly to you; those interested should call via Viber or the Israeli number…”
Interviews that HRM representatives have conducted with Ukrainian citizens who were arrested and detained prior to deportation, confirm the conclusion that one of the reasons there has been such a significant increase in the number of people from those countries coming to Israel is the misleading job ads that are published back in their country of origin.
For example, “A,” who was incarcerated at the Givon Detention Center after being arrested with an allegedly forged appointment slip for an asylum interview, told a Hotline volunteer that back in the Ukraine he searched online for options to work abroad and found many sites offering work in Israel. He chose one called – Tov Rabota V’Israeli and made contact with them through an intermediary. He sent this person documents by email, and was told by her what he should say upon arrival at the airport in Israel. She instructed him to delete from his phone all correspondence relating to his coming to Israel and correspondence with the agency and friends, and to say that he came to Israel to pray for the success of his new business. After getting into the country he called the intermediary and was told by her that she had been unable to get hold of his “agent”.
In the meantime, the intermediary told him he had to buy a “tourist package.” “A” met his “agent” who demanded an additional payment of $550 for taking care of his papers. “A” was sent by the agency to submit an asylum application at the Refugee Status Determination Unit at 53 Salame Street in Tel Aviv. After waiting in line for a full day, he received a letter a instructing him to report to the same office at a future date to submit his application. When he returned at the pre-arranged time, he was told that the appointment letter was forged and he was arrested, taken into custody, and most probably deported.
On August 11, 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) sent a letter to HRM detailing the case of “V.P.”, a Ukrainian citizen who was identified as a victim of slavery after being deported from Israel. “V.P.” was recruited by a Ukrainian placement service company and promised work in Israel. He paid $800 for the service and received guidance on how to pass border control at Ben-Gurion airport. After clearing the authorities, two Israelis of Ukrainian origin were waiting for him and took him to an apartment where they housed him, and provided him with documents that were later discovered to be forged. They charged him $400 in addition to the amount he had already paid in the Ukraine. From the apartment, he was taken to a factory where he worked with 15 other Ukrainians between 12 to 15 hours a day and was paid $600 for the entire month during which he worked there. According to “V.P.”, the factory was heavily guarded and the workers were not allowed to leave the premises except to be transported back to their housing. They were also subjected to threats that they would be turned over to the authorities. “V.P.” was arrested and deported from Israel after an inspection at the factory by authorities, during which he discovered that the documents given to them were forged.
HRM calls upon the Population and Immigration Authority and enforcement agencies to take legal action against bodies profiteering from bringing workers to Israel “via the back door” while exploiting the dysfunctional asylum system of the State of Israel. The Hotline protests the damage these illicit operations do to the asylum system, and insists that the State of Israel has a duty to conduct a thorough review of applications particularly when they suspect the asylum system is being exploited.