High Court: Breaking ties that bind

Foreign workers no longer obligated to the employer who brought them to Israel.

foreign workers kids 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
foreign workers kids 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Human rights groups welcomed the decision by the High Court of Justice Thursday overturning the law that prohibits foreign workers from leaving the employer who brought them into the country. "Today is more than a day of joy, it's a day of relief for all foreign workers who have suffered at the hands of their employers over the past seven years," said Shevy Korzen, executive director of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, one of several human rights organizations that brought the petition against the law before the courts more than four years ago. "We believe that the binding policy is one of the main reasons migrant workers are abused," said Korzen. "These workers are entitled to the basic freedom to choose their own employer," she said. "These workers pay upwards of $10,000 to come to Israel to work, and if they decide to break free from an abusive employer they are likely to get deported," said Korzen, adding, "We see this type of situation every day in our offices or in the prisons - migrant workers who leave their abusive employers and then are punished again by being arrested by the authorities and thrown into jail." According to statistics collected by the Hotline, there are more than 150,000 foreign workers in Israel. Over the last decade, their wages and working conditions have deteriorated. Workers arrive here believing that they will earn enough to support their families at home and repay the cost of their travel, but for many this is not the case. As a result, many who came here legally leave their employers to find their own work, which automatically invalidates their work permits. They join the ranks of the illegals, living in constant fear of arrest. "These migrant workers are just poor people who, by no fault of their own, become illegal," said Korzen. Korzen said the reason it took so long for a ruling to be issued on the petition was because government representatives kept promising to address the issue, but they never did.