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(photo credit: Courtesy)
A lawyer expert in immigration matters and foreign workers' rights says he will petition the High Court of Justice to overturn an Interior Ministry policy that prevents Nepalese caregivers from working in Israel.
Ilan Schvade, a former legal adviser to the Interior Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post Monday that the ministry's decision to stop the influx of Nepalese caregivers into Israel was both sudden and illegal. He chided the ministry for refusing visas to these workers, who have invested time and money to be prepared to work here.
"The decision of the ministry was sudden and has left many Nepalese workers, who have already taken training courses to learn the language and to understand our culture, stranded in Nepal," Schvade told the Post.
Schvade estimates that 12,000 Nepalese work in Israel.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabene Hadad said the policy was temporary and followed a request by the Knesset Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women to halt the flow of Nepalese after hearing testimonies by some Nepalese workers who claimed to have been victims of the white slave trade.
"Nepal has no diplomatic relations with Israel and this decision was made to protect them from human trafficking," Hadad said. "The change is only temporary, until the Nepalese government finds a solution to the problem."
Ilan Nir, Nepal's honorary consul in Israel, said he was not responsible for creating policies between the two countries. Rather, he said, his role was to provide as much assistance as possible to Nepalese citizens residing and working in Israel.
"Nepalese workers have been coming to Israel for the past six years without any diplomatic offices here to protect their rights," said Schvade, adding, "Other foreign worker groups, such as the Chinese, have diplomatic operations here, but their citizens are not immune from illegal treatment."
"The decision is discriminatory. These workers have given up their jobs, left their families and invested their money in a training course to come here, and a sudden new policy has left them in limbo," Nir continued.
For Beit El resident Shimon Feuchtwanger, the temporary policy change has meant that the help he was counting on to care for his sick wife will be much longer in arriving.
"I am supposed to have cataract surgery in the next few months, but I can't set a date until I know when a caregiver will be able to come and help me look after my wife," said Feuchtwanger, who was set to employ a worker from Nepal starting last week. His request was turned down at the last minute by the Interior Ministry.
Feuchtwanger said his wife, who has suffered from multiple sclerosis for 30 years, told him several months ago that the time had come for the family to seek outside help.
"I looked around for an agency and found the Himalayan Multiple Skill Training Institute, which teaches Nepalese caregivers how to work with Orthodox Jewish families," he told to the Post. "We wanted someone who would understand our culture and not be afraid to live in a place like Beit El. We'd heard that many foreign workers were afraid to work in communities [across the Green Line.]"
After obtaining the relevant permits from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, Feuchtwanger approached the Interior Ministry to approve the visa of a carefully selected Nepalese woman. His request was denied.
"I don't believe that a country should behave in this way," he said. "Nepalese workers are waiting with their suitcases, ready to come and help, and a sudden ministry decision has left us stranded."
Hadad said that families such as the Feuchtwangers should simply seek help from other workers, such as those from the Philippines.
"If our situation was really critical, we would take whatever person was available," said Feuchtwanger. "But I prefer to have a person living and working with us who is properly prepared."