Looking for Israel jobs? Read the fine print

Indian workers heading to Israel not eligible for protections under government’s ‘e-migrate’ portal; must pay for their own travel, accommodation, insurance; Ministries pass the buck on workers’ safety in conflict zone

January 14, 2024 08:29 pm | Updated January 15, 2024 10:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

About 80 to 100 foreign workers have been killed during the October 7 attacks against Israel and the conflict that has followed, leading many countries — including India — to fly out their expatriate citizens.

About 80 to 100 foreign workers have been killed during the October 7 attacks against Israel and the conflict that has followed, leading many countries — including India — to fly out their expatriate citizens. | Photo Credit: AFP

As officials in at least two States — Uttar Pradesh and Haryana — prepare to screen thousands of applicants for jobs in Israel, activists and trade unions say that the Union government is bypassing all protections it normally employs for Indian labour going abroad to conflict zones. In fact, these workers will not even be required to register themselves on the ‘e-migrate’ portal run by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), and several government Ministries and agencies have disclaimed any responsibility for the welfare and safety of the workers.

Activists are planning to move the courts after the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) issued a detailed document calling for workers. Calling the move “inhumane”, the activists warned that the government’s decision to fast-track the recruitment of Indian construction workers, nurses and caregivers even while Israeli operations continue in Gaza and the West Bank will put them in harm’s way.

The latest push to screen Indian workers comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “advance” the date of arrival of workers, during a telephone call on December 19.

No protection

“This step is against Indian ethos. We are for a ceasefire in Israel. We are concerned about the safety and security of workers,” All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary Amarjeet Kaur told The Hindu, adding that trade unions now plan to approach the courts. 

Official promotional documents accessed by The Hindu promise attractive salaries, but give no details of contractual protections. They stipulate that the workers will be expected to pay for their own tickets to Israel, apart from the ₹10,000 per worker that the NSDC is charging as facilitation fees. The workers heading to Israel will not receive any of the labour protections on insurance, medical coverage, and employment guarantees which the government insists on for workers heading to most Gulf countries and other labour markets.

A pamphlet linked to the NSDC portal billed the job-call as a “passport to dreams abroad”, and a chance to “discover new horizons in Israel”. It lists 2,000 openings for plastering workers, 2,000 for ceramic tile workers, and 3,000 each for iron bending and frame workers. Monthly salaries are approximately ₹1.37 lakh (6,100 Israeli shekels), from which accommodation, food, and medical insurance costs will be deducted. Advertisements placed by the Rozgar (Employment) departments of U.P. and Haryana this month have each advertised 10,000 jobs, for which screening will take place.

Passing the buck

While various government agencies formally distanced themselves from the documents themselves, put out in the name of NSDC International, government sources confirmed that the recruitment process will begin this week with interviews and screening in several cities. When asked, NSDC CEO Ved Mani Tiwari told The Hindu that the advertisements had been issued by the State governments, not by the NSDC.

“We have no mandate for Israel or for the employers. We are not a recruiting company. Some State governments have invited applications for jobs in Israel and our mandate is to provide skill training for workers,” Mr. Tiwari said. 

The Union Labour Ministry declined to comment on the plans, as did Haryana Labour Minister Anoop Dhanak. “It is the MEA that monitors such migration of workers,” an official said on condition of anonymity. 

However, the MEA also declined to reply to a detailed list of questions sent by The Hindu asking what kind of assurances were being requested from the Israeli labour agency — the Population and Immigration Authority, known as PIBA. Officials said that the recruitment was taking place as a “B2B” or business-to-business arrangement, offering little clarity on who will actually be responsible for the eventual fate of the workers. 

India-Israel agreement

About 80 to 100 foreign workers have been killed during the October 7 attacks against Israel and the conflict that has followed, leading many countries — including India — to fly out their expatriate citizens. However, only about 1,300 of the 18,000 Indian citizens in Israel actually opted for the government-run flights as part of Operation Ajay. 

PIBA, the Israeli immigration agency, declined to comment on specific questions about the welfare of the workers, but sources said that they would proceed on the basis of an agreement signed with the Indian government. On November 3 last year, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, that oversees NSDC, signed a 3-year agreement with the Israeli government on the “Facilitation of the Temporary Employment of Indian Workers in Specific Labour Market Sectors (Construction and Care-giving) in the State of Israel”. 

“The responsibility of implementing the protocols has been delegated to NSDC,” the agreement says, adding that a PIBA delegation met with NSDC in December 2023 “to streamline the process of recruitment”. Despite the official document, however, none of the agencies involved agreed to comment on who would ensure safety. 

Israel not part of ‘e-migrate’

At present, all workers going to conflict zones or places without sufficient labour protections are required to register with the MEA’s ‘e-migrate’ portal. Passports issued under the ECR (Emigration Check Required) scheme cover workers travelling to 18 countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The government has not included Israel to that list despite the deaths of foreign workers in the current conflict. An official confirmed that the ‘e-migrate’ system, introduced by the government in 2015 to streamline guarantees for workers, will not be used for those going to Israel. 

May replace Palestinian workers

Apart from the issue of safety, some officials have privately questioned the government’s policy decision to send in Indian workers as “replacements” for Palestinian workers who were banned by the Israeli government in the wake of the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas. The officials said this means that New Delhi will not be seen as a “neutral” party, warning that this could also lead to the targeting of about 8 million Indians working in other parts of the Gulf region inimical to Israel. They sought clarifications on whether the workers will also be sent to “occupied territories” and settler colonies that India does not recognise as Israeli territory. 

Responding to questions on the issue in Parliament on December 14, Minister of State in the MEA V. Muraleedharan said only that the government “has not made any discussions with Israel regarding possible replacement of Palestinian labourers with Indian workers”. 

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.