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3 May 2024

Priya Sippy, BBC

Malawi: Migrant farm workers in Israel allegedly exploited and underpaid seek new employment opportunities in breach of visa conditions

See all tags Allegations

" We are paid about half our official salaries - Malawians in Israel " 3 May 2024

Benzani, a Malawian who is currently working on a farm in southern Israel, has said low salaries are the reason why some Malawians have left their jobs on the farms to look for other work in the country.

Authorities said that a dozen Malawians had been arrested after abandoning their farm work and seeking employment in town, breaching their visa conditions. Hundreds of Malawians travelled to Israel last year to fill a labour gap on Israel's farms, as thousands of workers had left following the start of the war with Hamas in October. "The payment is lower, contrary to what we had signed," Benzani tells the BBC. "The minimum wage in Israel is 32 shekels ($8.60; £6.85) an hour, but some of us are being paid 18 to 20 shekels an hour."Benzani said many of them had signed contracts which said they would receive $1,500 a month.

Benzani tells the BBC he has rarely seen a payslip with the details of his salary since beginning work almost five months ago. Two of Benzani's co-workers on his farm in Israel also abandoned their jobs last month. While their phone numbers are no longer in service, they have been able to keep in touch on Facebook. He believes they are working in restaurants in the nearest town. "I think 70 to 80% of us from Malawi are having these problems with payment," he says. Another farm worker, Alex Machili, said he was also receiving below the minimum wage. "That's why people are looking for other jobs outside their visa requirements."

Benzani and Alex say that have both addressed payment issues with their recruitment agencies, but are yet to receive answers.