A long way from home

Thai workers’ rights are being abused in Israel, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch

Southeast Asia Globe Editorial
January 22, 2015

Thai workers’ rights are being abused in Israel, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch

Thai workers in Israel are facing severe labour rights abuses, claimed a report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch. Titled ‘A Raw Deal: Abuses of Thai Workers in Israel’s Agricultural Sector,’ the 48-page report found that low pay, excessive working hours, substandard working conditions and housing were common for the approximately 25,000 Thai migrants working in the Middle Eastern state.

Photo: supplied
Migrant workers in Thailand. Photo: supplied

The report also documented that migrant workers face retribution from employers if they protest and that these problems are still frequent, despite a series of attempts to improve the situation were made four years ago when Israel set laws for minimum wages, unionisation, maximum working hours and guidelines for working conditions.

“The success of Israel’s agricultural industry depends to a large extent on the labour of Thai migrant workers, but Israel is doing far too little to uphold their rights and protect them from exploitation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a press release emailed to journalists yesterday. “Israeli authorities need to be much more active in enforcing the law on working hours and conditions, and in clamping down on employers who abuse workers’ rights.”

As part of the report, Human Rights Watch interviewed almost 200 people in 10 farming communities across Israel and, in most cases, the organisation found inadequate working conditions and living standards. Illnesses such as headaches, respiratory problems and other ailments were reported, with many said to be caused by the spraying of pesticides without the proper equipment.

Human Rights Watch also found that when a number of workers attempted to change employers, recruitment agencies that facilitate transfer fined them up to one months salary.

Thai workers in Israel face serious problems but these can be addressed because Israel already has laws and a regulatory system in place to protect migrant workers,” said Whitson. “It is fundamentally a question of enforcing these laws and regulations.”

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