The number of complaints by migrant workers in Israel regarding possible violations of their rights soared last year, according to a new report by the Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI), in cooperation with the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA).
Some 2,657 complaints and inquiries were received in 2018 by the Center for Migrant Workers’ dedicated call center for workers, representing a 43% increase compared to the previous year.
Established in July 2012, the call center operated by CIMI – a nonprofit founded by JDC-Israel – is staffed by 13 employees providing answers to queries in eight languages commonly spoken by migrant workers in Israel. Complaints are referred to the PIBA’s complaint coordinator, who informs enforcement units if necessary.
Half of the calls received in 2018 included requests for information that could be directly answered by the center’s employees. with Many of the queries were regarding manpower companies, visas and worker rights.
A total of 30% of calls concerned wage complaints, including complaints regarding unpaid wages, wages that do not comply with the law and wages paid without an accompanying pay slip. A further 28% of calls involved complaints regarding the conduct of an employer or manpower agency.
Calls on other subjects, including healthcare, non-withdrawal of worker deposits and lack of work permits, represented 7% of calls received by the center.
Last year, 103 complaints regarded safety in the agriculture and construction sectors, accounting for approximately 4% of all complaints. Thai agricultural workers issued 63 safety-related complaints, of which 52 were for exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Figures provided by CIMI exceeded 100%, the organization said, as migrant worker complaints often referred to violations in more than one category.
“This data, which has been collected systematically since 2014, allows us to follow up on the situation of employees and different trends since their arrival,” said Dr. Nelly Kfir, director of research, evaluation and development at CIMI.
“In addition to the positive trend of increased employee awareness of rights violations, it is almost certain that not all violations are reported to the referral center. It should also be emphasized that in contrast to previous years, the highest number of applicants came from workers in the construction industry in 2018, despite construction workers being outnumbered by agricultural workers.”
To date, approximately 42,000 migrant workers have entered Israel under bilateral inter-governmental agreements, which aim to put an end to illegal recruitment fees.
The Israeli government has signed agreements with Thailand, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and several Eastern European countries for workers from various sectors.
According to CIMI, a sum of almost $300 million in illegal recruitment fees has been saved in sectors covered by bilateral agreements and an ongoing pilot project in the caregiving sector.