FIDH: foreign workers in Israel, a contemporary form of slavery
Israeli employers are routinely violating the rights of the country’s 300,000 migrant workers making up 13 percent of the country's workforce, with conditions in some cases ''equivalent to slavery,'' reported the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN).
Because of the desperate situation of foreign workers, both legal and illegal, their fundamental rights are violated, stated an investigative mission report published on August 25, 2003, by FIDH. Migrant workers in Israel are not granted days off, and receive wages half to two-third of the wage paid to Palestinian workers in the Jewish State and even less compared to that of Israelis. The study describes their working conditions as “poor” and reports the confiscation of passports.
Migrant workers have been employed in Israel since the 1980s and their number has steadily grown since then. Due to closures and security concerns associated with the first and above all the second Intifada, Israel has increasingly turned to migrant labor to replace the Palestinian workers who are prevented from entering Israel. Whereas around 115,000 Palestinians worked in Israel before September 2000, their number has dropped to a few thousands today.
The legal or documented foreign workers are totally within the control of their Israeli employers, most of whom hold on to the workers’ passports illegally. If they complain, they are liable to dismissal, which instantly makes them illegal. Half of the migrants are from China, Thailand, the Philippines, 45 percent from Eastern European countries and the rest from African and Latin American countries.
According to the report, recruiting foreign workers is a very lucrative business. For example, the Chinese, mainly construction workers, have paid 6,000-$10,000 each to come to Israel, a sum which is divided between a Chinese agency, the Israeli employers or their agency, and the Israeli Government and the travel company. The report notes that pressure groups in Israel and their contacts in Government and Parliament have been promoting this activity.
Some 60 percent of foreign workers in Israel are illegal. Many of the foreign workers start out as legal workers, but then lose their job or change employers. Since their work permit only allows them to work for one specific employer, they become illegal as a result. Illegal workers usually remain in Israel, because they cannot afford to go home. They are liable to arrest and detention at any moment, and ultimately to deportation.
The FIDH and the EMNHR have urged the Israeli government to comply with its obligation under international instruments in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Labor Organization Conventions and to ratify relevant instruments and in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their families.
Paris-based FIDH is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to advance the implementation of all the rights defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other international instruments protecting human rights. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)