Report: 46% of foreign workers here illegaly

Central Bureau of Statistics says nearly half of 220,000 workers do not have permits.

July 29, 2010 00:11
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

FOREIGN WORKERS 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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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 Statistics.

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 caregivers.

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 developed countries.

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.

According 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 bad precedent.

In the past year, there have been several protests over the issue of foreign workers after the government stepped up efforts to reduce their numbers.

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.

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