Interior Ministry fails on foreign caregivers policy

State Comptroller's Report shows no clear policy exists towards migrants working in nursing profession.

May 18, 2011 04:49
2 minute read.
Foreign caregivers in Israel

Foreign caregivers 311. (photo credit: courtesy)

In the two years since it took over responsibility for monitoring the flow of foreign workers into Israel, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority has failed to create a clear and concrete policy toward those migrants working in the nursing profession, the State Comptroller’s Report for 2011 released on Tuesday has revealed.

The Comptroller’s Office examined the importance of foreign caregivers, their treatment by the state and their relationship with elderly employers.

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According to the report, the Population and Immigration Authority was required to design a system that would find a balance between protecting the rights of foreign caregivers and ensuring that those in need of home-based nursing, mostly the elderly, received adequate care.

In September 2006, Supreme Court ruled that the government must create a new system to employ foreign caregivers in this country, highlighted the Comptroller’s Office, which spent April to August 2010 investigating the authority’s work, including the activities of its Oz Unit immigration police.

“The new system was meant to improve the homecare services provided to the elderly, while at the same time protect the rights of the foreign workers.

“It was also supposed to provide stricter supervision of the agencies that bring in foreign workers from abroad,” read the report, adding, “Two years have passed since [the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority] took over the treatment and responsibility for migrant caregivers, but still it has not provided even the basic outline of a new method of working with the migrants.”

“Caregivers who come here can lose their legal status very quickly under the current arrangements,” explained Sigal Rozen, public policy coordinator for the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

“There has to be some kind of system that will give them [the migrant workers] working power, because the way it has been conducted all these years is almost impossible.

“We understand the distress and the problems of the elderly, and we sympathize with them, but the way to help them is not by punishing and shackling the migrant workers [to their particular employer] but by giving them incentive to stay here and work,” continued Rozen.

To encourage foreign caregivers to take on more challenging jobs or to work in the periphery, they should be given incentives, she added.

One of the government’s concerns is that there is a shortage of caregivers working in some fields and certain remote areas, and that the migrants move between jobs with no commitment to their elderly employers. A law approved by the Knesset this week could make it more difficult for foreign caregivers to move from one job to another or even to move to different towns.

As of August 2010, there were some 57,000 migrant caregivers in Israel, 42,000 of whom were employed in nursing, data from the Population and Immigration Authority shows.

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