Israel - Migrant workers abused and exploited (2012)

According to the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority, in 2011 there were approximately 184,000 were foreign workers, of whom about 109,400 were undocumented (including working tourists who do have a labour permit). Maltreatment is prevalent, especially in the agriculture sector. Alongside Eastern European and Asian workers are tens of thousands of Palestinians who work for Israeli employers as documented or undocumented migrants. Racial tensions between immigrants and refugees and Israelis have been rising.

There are 24,000 mainly Thai migrant workers employed in the agricultural industry. They travel to Israel through private agencies to which each worker pays an average of USD 9, 000. Exploitation is common with the regular withholding of salaries, long working hours with false or non-existant payslips and threats of deportation to workers who try to complain. On 12 January, after an undercover investigation, 12 employees of an Ashkelon-based recruitment agency were arrested on suspicion of defrauding Thai agricultural workers and forcing them to work many hours to meet their illegal debts to the agency. Authorities suspect that the agency forced Thai workers to pay tens of thousands of shekels to work in Israel, and ran what was in effect a slave labour market when the workers could not pay off their illegal debts. The law permits recruitment agencies to take a maximum of 3,400 shekels from each foreign worker, but police suspect the debts incurred by the agency reached sums of USD 10,000 per worker.

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