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Israel to Recruit 25,000 More Thais Despite Reports of Worker Abuse, Deaths

A pair of Thai farmers work the fields in Israel in a scene from a 2018 BBC investigation that documented widespread worker abuse, safety hazards and mysterious deaths.
A pair of Thai farmers work the fields in Israel in a scene from a 2018 BBC investigation that documented widespread worker abuse, safety hazards and mysterious deaths.

IsIsrael and Thailand agreed on Monday to renew an agreement to allow 25,000 more Thais to work in the Mideast country where previous worker reported being overworked, underpaid and regularly placed in harm’s way.

The pact signed in Jerusalem follows the first bilateral agreement, which was signed in December 2010, and enabled the recruitment of Thai workers legally and transparently. The 2010 agreement has regulated the procedure and prevented illegal actions, such as the high charges which were paid by Thai workers to private recruitment companies.

The government called the new agreement a significant milestone in cooperation between Thailand and Israel. Within the framework, tens of thousands of Thai workers have already worked in Israel.

The government claimed Israel is considered as an attractive work destination for Thais, as they enjoy attractive incomes and legal protections under Israeli law.

The reality, however, is much different. A year-long investigation in 2018 by the United Kingdom’s BBC News found widespread abuse of Thai nationals living and working in Israel. Many, the BBC said, were subjected to unsafe working practices and squalid, unsanitary living conditions. Some were overworked, others underpaid and there were dozens of unexplained deaths.

Thai agricultural workers are an important component of Israel’s economy, which needs a skilled agricultural workforce, Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said.

“This agreement is the flagship project of bilateral relations between Israel and Thailand. I have no doubt that it will continue to contribute significantly to more prosperity in Thailand and in Israel, and to enhance job creation especially during these times of economic difficulties,” said Israeli Ambassador Meir Shlomo.