On (28/4/20), a petition was filed by a number of organizations – The Worker’s Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights – demanding that an arrangement be made to ensure the health and living conditions of Palestinian workers remaining in Israel at this time. Following a letter sent by the organizations on this matter at the end of March, a law memorandum was published stating that the employers of Palestinian workers remaining in Israel during the Corona epidemic must provide their employees with health insurance. Despite this, the situation remains unchanged, including inadequate accommodation and living conditions. Therefore, a petition was filed today against the Ministries of Health, Labor and Social Services, Interior, Construction and Housing, and the Minister of Defense, demanding, among other things, the following: an arrangement to ensure the health of the Palestinian workers staying in Israel with permits for accommodation during the Corona epidemic, conditioning the employment of these Palestinian workers on their receiving appropriate accommodations as stipulated in the foreign worker regulations, and the establishment of a join supervisory procedure to ensure the enforcement of health and safety of the workers.
The petitioners stated: “The State of Israel is exploiting the most disadvantaged workers, keeping them under conditions akin to slavery. Their dignity is trampled upon as they are given accommodation in unsupervised construction sites, their health is neglected as no one provides them insurance during a global health crisis, and their liberty is denied when their employers process their papers but, in fact, bind them to their workplaces.”
In response to our petition, we are pleased to report (as of 06/05/20) that they key issues we petitioned for have been accepted, and that the workers, many of whom are employed in dangerous industries, will have health insurance in Israel and will be treated by clinics or hospitals if needed, and that the employers’ obligations regarding living conditions that they are required to provide are specified now in the emergency regulations. Additionally, the government responded that the taking of personal documents from employees to restrict their movement was a mistake derived from old regulations, and will no longer be practiced. We further note the importance of finding an alternative to using the “The Coordinator” app that allows the military and COGAT to access all the cell phone data of the employees and transfer it to third parties in violation of the right to privacy and dignity. All in all, we are pleased that the issue is being taken up in legislation by the Knesset, and we call for the right to health and shelter to be enshrined in legislation for all workers required to stay in Israel beyond the crisis, and not just in case of emergency.
For further information (Hebrew)