Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Kenya is sending 1,500 farm workers to Israel, the labour ministry has said.

The announcement comes nearly two weeks after Malawi sent 221 young people to work on Israeli farms, triggering a backlash against the government.

The casual workers will be deployed on three-year renewable contracts, “with a guaranteed net income” of $1,500 (£1,195), the labour ministry added.

Israel has turned to Africa to fill a severe labour gap on its farms, after a mass exit of foreign workers.

More than 10,000 migrant farm workers – mostly Thailand nationals – have left Israel since the start of the war with Hamas in early October.

Israel has also barred Palestinian workers, who made up nearly 20% of the agricultural labour force prior to the war.

Israel’s agriculture ministry told CNN last week that the country needed 30-40,000 farm workers.

The announcement has sparked mixed reactions in Kenya, with some concerned about the workers’ safety.

At least 32 Thai farm workers were killed and several others taken hostage when Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October.

Critics have also questioned the conditions the workers will face in Israel.

In 2018, a investigation found that many migrant farm workers in Israel were subject to unsafe working practices and squalid, unsanitary living conditions. Some were overworked, others underpaid, and there were dozens of unexplained deaths.

Rights groups like Human Rights Watch have also previously raised the alarm over Israel’s treatment of foreign farm labourers.

At the time Israel denied the accusations and has since said that foreign workers have the same employment rights as Israeli citizens.

Some Kenyans have supported the deal, saying it provides badly needed jobs at a time when Kenya is battling an unemployment crisis and the rising cost of living.

Kenya has an unemployment rate of 5.5%, according to the World Bank.

By Joy

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