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9 Nov 2023

Israel: Recruitment fees & debt trap migrants in the conflict, as workers struggle to protect themselves during attacks amid lack of safety training

Previously, migrant farm workers have been forced to continue working through rocket attacks from Gaza … There is a disproportionate risk to farm workers who are forced to work while attacks are ongoing.
Nicholas McGeehan, FairSquare

In October 2023, The Guardian reported migrant workers in Israel are unable to return home despite the conflict due to being trapped in debt from excessive recruitment fees. Most migrant workers in the country are employed in care, agriculture, and construction.

The CNN article, also released in October 2023, describes how migrant workers have been caught up in the conflict, including those from Asia who are often from poor, rural families. Construction workers from China are also allegedly caught up in the conflict.

La Prensa Latina has also released an article alleging migrant workers who request to return home due to the conflict are being offered between THB 50,000 and THB1 00,000 (USD 1,381 and USD 2,762) by their employers to remain. The Thai Prime Minister has spoken with the Israeli ambassador on the issue, who is investigating it.

The article also emphasises that Thai agricultural workers in Israel have historically experienced poor labour conditions, including precarious housing and health conditions.

A later Financial Times article elaborates on the context of Thai farmworkers' employment in Israel's agricultural sector. In the article, the anthropologist Matan Kaminer states the employment of migrant workers was a strategic decision by the Israeli state to replace Palestinian workers so that Israel would not be dependent on them. The article also describes historical labour rights abuses experienced by Thai migrant farmworkers in Israel, including payments below the minimum wage, unsafe working conditions, and difficulty accessing medical care.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation article, also released in October 2023, emphasises the issue of recruitment fee payment stopping migrant workers from leaving Israel; and highlights how some migrants have been left without work due to the shutdown of the economy.

In October 2023, The Guardian reports insights from a worker rights expert in Israel, from the organisation Kav LaOved, who alleges migrant workers are especially vulnerable due to employers and middlemen not providing adequate health and safety training on how to protect oneself during attacks. The worker rights expert also alleges workers experience restricted access to information due to language barriers, catalysing their vulnerability.

When you have migrant populations segregated from the general population, what inevitably happens ... is they become largely invisible...so when a conflict breaks out, they are not on anyone's priority list.
Nick McGeehan, Fairsquare.