India urges Israel to ensure safety and well-being of Indian workers

Noting that the Indo-Israel mobility agreement predates Israel’s current conflict with Hamas, MEA spokesperson says Indian government is “conscious” of the safety of Indians recruited to work in Israel

April 05, 2024 02:07 am | Updated 06:10 am IST - NEW DELHI

Photo shows Indian workers aspiring to be hired for jobs in Israel line up during a recruitment drive in Lucknow on January 25, 2024 The first batch of 60 workers left for Israel on April 2, 2024.

Photo shows Indian workers aspiring to be hired for jobs in Israel line up during a recruitment drive in Lucknow on January 25, 2024 The first batch of 60 workers left for Israel on April 2, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

India has urged Israel to ensure the safety and security of Indian citizens who are being flown to the conflict-hit nation under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement to work as blue-collar workers, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said on April 4.

He added that India was “distressed” at the recent attack on Iranian diplomatic premises in Damascus that both Syria and Iran blamed on Tel Aviv.

“As you are aware, these [first batch] workers have gone to Israel as part of a mobility agreement that we have signed with the country. This agreement predates the conflict. We are conscious of their safety. We have urged the Israeli authorities to ensure their safety and well-being,” Mr. Jaiswal said, responding to a question from The Hindu at his weekly media briefing. Israel and India had signed an agreement to fly around 42,000 workers from here to various spots in Israel.

Also read | Israel-bound Indian workers | Risking life for a living 

Recruiting Indian workers

Israel has been bolstering its work force by allowing more non-Arab workers from countries like Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Nepal, Thailand and other countries. Among the victims of last year’s October 7 terror attack were several workers from Thailand, Philippines and Nepal.

In November 2023, reports had suggested that Israel was looking for at least 100,000 Indian workers to replace the Palestinian workers who were employed in various sectors of the Israeli economy prior to the Hamas attacks. “Right now we are negotiating with India. We are waiting for [the] decision of the Israeli government to approve that,” Haim Feiglin, vice president of the Israel Builders Association, told Voice of America in November, 2023.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship signed an agreement with Israel in November 2023 to send caregivers and construction workers to Israel for a three year period between 2023 and 2026. Following this, a recruitment drive took place in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, drawing a large number of workers who enrolled to go to Israel.

Dangerous workspot

Earlier this week, the first batch of 60 Indian workers flew to Israel on Tuesday. These developments have drawn attention as Indian authorities, including the Indian ambassador to Israel, had in the past highlighted the risks to personal safety in Israel because of the ongoing clashes with Hamas.

Pat Nibin Maxwell, a 31-year old Indian citizen from Kerala, became the first Indian to die in the ongoing conflict after a rocket allegedly fired by the Lebanese militia Hizbollah hit him when he was working in an orchard in northern Israel near the Lebanese border. Maxwell had travelled to Israel only two months earlier to work there.

‘Distressed at escalating tensions’

On April 1, mysterious rocket strikes hit the Iranian embassy premises in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Both Iran and Syria blamed Israel for the attacks, which reportedly killed at least 12 individuals including Mohammed Reza Zahedi, who headed Iran’s military operations in Syria and Lebanon. Mr. Zahedi had decades of experience in Lebanon and was known to be a close associate of Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. The attack also killed Zahedi’s deputy, Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, and several officers of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

On Thursday, Mr. Jaiswal expressed India’s position on the attack in Damascus, saying, “We have noted with concern the attack on Iranian diplomatic premises in Syria on 1 April 2024. India is distressed at the escalating tensions in West Asia, and their potential to fuel further violence and instability. We urge all parties to avoid actions that go against commonly accepted principles and norms of international law.”

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