There were 220,000 foreign workers living in Israel at the end of 2009,
according to figures released on Tuesday by the Central Bureau of
According to the study, 101,500 (46 percent) of the foreign
workers were here illegally, with no permits.
During 2009, 27,000
foreigners entered Israel with work permits, 4,000 fewer than in 2008 and the
fewest since 2004. During the year, 23,000 people who had entered the county
with work permits, left after their permits expired.
The largest group
came from Thailand – 5,600 people, or 21% of the all 2009 entries. Most are
employed in agriculture.
The Philippines and former Soviet Union states
tied for second place with 5,100 (19%) hailing from each, most working as
Further down the list are Nepal (2,700), China (1,100) and
Romania (900). Only 500 people (2%) of the foreign workers in Israel come from
For the purpose of the study, illegal foreign
workers are those foreigners who entered Israel under tourist visas and failed
to leave before they expired. The Central Bureau of Statistics has been
collecting data based on border control records. According to the CBS, 2009’s
101,500 illegals represents a 5% drop from 2008.
Forty-two percent of the
illegal foreign workers come from FSU states, followed by 9% from Jordan, 5.7%
from Mexico, 4.5% from Colombia and less than 4% each from Turkey, Romania,
Brazil, Nepal and Egypt.
The cabinet on Sunday is scheduled to decide the
fate of 1,200 children born in Israel to parents who are illegal foreign
workers. Last month, an interministerial committee tasked by Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu with drafting recommendations regarding the children proposed
that 800 be allowed to stay in Israel. According to the committee’s
recommendations all children who were born in Israel, have lived in Israel for
more than five years, speak Hebrew and are registered in Israeli schools, should
be granted permanent resident status along with their families.
to foreign worker aid organizations, many of the parents became illegal
residents because of the birth of their children. Once a woman has a baby, she
automatically loses her work permit and becomes subject to deportation along
with her children.
Those who support the deportation of the children,
including Interior Minister Eli Yishai, say the workers are using their children
in order to remain and work in Israel and that allowing them to stay would set a
In the past year, there have been several protests over
the issue of foreign workers after the government stepped up efforts to reduce
Employers in the agriculture and construction sectors have
called on the government to let workers stay on and increase quotas of permits
for new ones, saying that they are vital and can not be replaced by Israelis.