Labor Migration in Israel
The population of labor migrants in Israel, primarily from Asian countries and Eastern Europe, has remained steady at approximately 200,000 for the last decade. Most migrant workers in Israel are employed in the labor sectors of domestic care, agriculture and construction.
Though the legal rights of these workers have become more regulated, many migrants arrive in Israel unaware of their rights. Even in cases where awareness exists, abuse is sometimes unreported out of fear of retribution.
Labor migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to the payment of illegal recruitment fees, often times incurring significant debts to loan sharks; some labor migrants become bonded laborers as a means to repay loans.
CIMI has assisted the Government of Israel in implementing bilateral agreements between Israel and Thailand, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, and more recently Nepal and Sri Lanka. These agreements establish frameworks through which quality and professional migrant workers are recruited to Israel without paying exorbitant recruitment fees. Migrant workers also benefit from a support network that allows them to express questions and complaints to the authorities, namely through a hotline operated by CIMI.
The hotline for migrant workers:
The hotline for migrant workers was established in 2012, and currently serves about 35,000 migrant workers who came to Israel through bilateral agreements. The hotline operates weekly from Sunday to Thursday, and is operated by 12 operators in 8 different languages: Thai, Chinese, Russian, Romanian, Nepalese, Sinhalese, Bulgarian and Ukrainian. Outside of the operating hours, workers may leave a message and an operator speaking their language will call them back.
In the year 2014 (in Hebrew it says 2014, and in English it said 2015), the hotline's data system was established, and from 2014 to August 2018, more than 9,000 complaints and inquiries were received. Most complaints were received through the hotline telephone system, while others were received through foreign embassies, labor offices, NGOs and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Most complaints are received from Thai, Moldovan and Chinese workers.
The hotline does not solve disputes or investigate violations but is in charge of receiving complaints and inquiries and forwarding them to Israel's Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA), which then forwards them to the relevant government authorities for investigation. About 50% of the received calls are not direct complaints but requests for information regarding workers' rights or visa status. Many requests do not require investigation but are attended to by the hotline operators who are proficient in their knowledge of workers' rights and obligations and are able to provide workers with "tools" to pursue appropriate solutions.
The main topics of calls in 2017 regarded questions related to salary (unpaid; not paid on time; failure to provide salary slips), employer/manpower agency conduct, and requests for information.