March 20th, 2010
On Thursday a 30-year-old Thai worker was killed from a Palestinian rocket that exploded in the Netiv HaAsara village in southern Israel. The rocket was launched by the Ansar al-Sunnah militant organization from the Gaza strip.
Tom Mehager of the Israeli migrant rights NGO Kav LaOved explained that workers have no choice but to work in unsafe areas, since their residency permit is tied to their employer. If the workers want to change jobs to move to a safer location, they lose their legal status. Because workers often have to pay over $8,000 to agents who secure the visa that allows them to enter Israel, the workers are left with no choice but to continue working in an unsafe environment.
Israel employs over 30,000 workers in the agricultural sector, most of whom are Thai workers. According to a Kav LaOved report from last October, migrant workers in this field are subjected to “wide and systematic exploitation” and face “complete abandonment by government authorities”.
Last year, The National reported about a group of Thai laborers who were forced to continue their work during the Gaza War, as their employer went to the bomb shelter with his dogs. The workers were also forced to work all week long on the farm, despite the fact that Israeli law obliges employers to give their workers 36 hours of rest per week. Mehager said that Thai workers, because of their isolation and lack of language skills, are especially ripe for exploitation.