Foreign students in Israel recognized as human trafficking victims

Some 49 migrant workers were recognized by Israel as victims of human trafficking in 2021, a Knesset committee discussed.

Students at the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training (photo credit: Courtesy)
Students at the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training
(photo credit: Courtesy)

10 foreign students who arrived in Israel to take part in an apprenticeship program in the agriculture sector were recognized last year by the State as victims of human trafficking, the Knesset's Special Committee for Foreign Workers found on Monday.

Nine Vietnamese students and one Rwandan student were recognized as victims after working in Israel as part of their agricultural education, along with 4,000 other foreigners from 30 nations annually.

These foreign workers come to the Jewish State to "acquire the knowledge needed to develop agriculture in their country," Dana Korash, head of the foreign agriculture workers administration in the Foreign Ministry, said during the Knesset discussion.

An Israel Police report studied by the Knesset committee, chaired by Labor MK Ibtisam Mara'ana-Menuhin, said 49 migrant workers were recognized by the Israeli government as victims of human trafficking in 2021.

According to Mara'ana-Menuhin, they are asked to pay tuition fees around the five-figure mark, an "imaginary number" for students coming from third-world nations. Korash responded by stating that the workers receive a fair wage and good working conditions, adding that by the end of their apprenticeship in Israel, the workers make a profit of thousands of NIS.

MK Ibtisam Mara'ana-Menuhin during a discussion in the Knesset's Special Committee for Foreign Workers on March 14, 2022 (credit: NOAM MOSKOWITZ)MK Ibtisam Mara'ana-Menuhin during a discussion in the Knesset's Special Committee for Foreign Workers on March 14, 2022 (credit: NOAM MOSKOWITZ)

Attorney Orit Ronen, head of the agriculture workers department in migrant workers Israeli NGO Worker's Hotline, said that the workers themselves tell a "different story" of their working conditions.

The workers work "around the clock in harsh conditions," Ronen said. "State laws do not always seem to apply to them. Most do not get paid even minimum wage and some do not even consistently get their monthly pay packet."

Mara'ana-Menuhin announced a follow-up discussion on the issue will be held as she instructed representatives of the relevant ministries to explain to all foreigners studying and working in Israel their full rights in their own native tongue.

Last year, the US State Department's annual report on human trafficking demoted Israel to Tier 2, implying that efforts in combating human trafficking in Israel have deteriorated.

The report noted that Israel had failed to maintain "serious and sustained" efforts to root out trafficking, the reason being fewer investigations and procedures carried out against human traffickers.