State 'in contempt' for failing to stop 'chaining'

"Chaining" is arrangement whereby migrant workers are "chained" to their original employers and may be deported if they leave them for whatever reason.

The High Court of Justice has found the state in contempt of court for failing to implement a ruling ordering it to end the arrangement whereby migrant workers are "chained" to their original employers and may be deported if they leave them for whatever reason. The ruling, issued Wednesday, came in response to a petition by the human and social rights organizations Kav La'oved, Hotline for Migrant Workers, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights, the Adva Institute and Committed to Peace and Social Justice. The organizations charged that even though the court had ruled on March 30, 2006 to abolish the chaining system and had given the state six months to implement a new one, the state had failed to do so. A panel of three justices headed by Edmond Levy agreed. After noting the state's plans for instituting new systems in the care-giving, industrial and agricultural sectors, Levy wrote, "the trouble with them is that these plans have not been made public, they have not been implemented and many law enforcement authorities continue to act as though the court's verdict was never given." "We take a very grave view of this failure and cannot accept it, especially given the petitioners' arguments that the chaining arrangements continue to exist and migrant workers are declared illegal sojourners and jailed just because they decide to leave their employers," wrote Levy. He gave the state 30 days to report back and explain how and when it planned to implement the new arrangements. According to the chaining system, a migrant worker is assigned to a specific employer before he arrives in Israel and the employer's name is stamped in his passport. The worker may not leave his employer for any reason. If he does, he will be deported. The system makes the worker completely dependent on the employer and gives the latter the opportunity to exploit him in various ways. In 2002, the human and social rights organizations petitioned the High Court asking it to declare the system illegal. In the verdict written by Levy, the court declared that "the [chaining] system violates basic rights and is disproportional. The operative consequence of this conclusion is that the minister of interior does not have the right to make the work permit given to migrant workers conditional on the chaining system. "The respondents must prepare a new, balanced and proportional employment system which is not based on chaining the worker who comes to Israel to a single employer and will prohibit linking the worker's decision to quit with any sanction whatsoever." More than two-and-a-half years later, the court ruled that the state has failed to comply with this ruling.