QALQILIYA, July 22, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli forces detained Wednesday 120 Palestinian workers near Oranit settlement near ‘Azzun ‘Atma village to the southwest of Qalqiliya as they were heading to work in Israel without permits, reported Israeli media.
Israeli Channel 7, also Known as Arutz Sheva, reported that Israeli border police conducted extensive search operations in the area near Oranit settlement following a warning of impending ‘infiltration’ by illegal workers into Israel.
The police found and detained 120 Palestinian workers, who did not have permits hiding in a trench and seeking to cross into Israel. They were taken to a nearby Israeli interrogation center.
A 2013 working paper prepared by MIFTAH exploring the issue of Palestinian laborers in Israel revealed that around 40,000 Palestinians annually cross over to Israel to work; about half of this number does so illegally.
Almost on a monthly basis, Israel detains tens of Palestinian workers of all ages who try to get employed in Israel, but without having the necessary permits, because they were either denied or couldn’t apply for it.
It estimated that 15,000 out of the 20,000 Palestinians who cross over to Israel illegally are detained by Israeli forces.
Even though Palestinians break the Israeli law by entering Israel without a working permit, such actions shouldn’t be viewed in isolation from the overall situation. According to B’Tselem, “Israel is required to ensure the livelihood of the Palestinian residents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories under its effective control, and guarantee their right to work and to an adequate standard of living.”
As an occupying power, Israel is responsible for the wellbeing and providing a decent living for Palestinians who can’t find proper job opportunities in the West Bank, which suffers from growing fiscal crisis.
While the Oslo Accords allowed the establishment of the Palestinian Authority which have certain authority over some parts of the West Bank and Gaza, it has allowed Israel to retain significant control over the Palestinian economy, allowing it to limit the amount, type and source of goods entering Palestinian economy, giving it full control on export and import ways and making the Palestinian economy almost fully dependent on Israel.
Israel has maintained the upper hand in controlling and regulating the entry of Palestinian workers into Israel. Since the second intifada in 2000, it has continued to severely restrict the employment opportunities for Palestinians in Israel.
In the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, Israel has undermined Palestinian economy and turned it into a noncompetitive market by limiting the countries and quantities of goods that can come to the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Having no other choice or job in the West Bank and because wages in Israel are double, even three times more than wages in the West Bank or Gaza, Palestinians go through the hassle of acquiring work permits or take the risk of crossing over to Israel illegally.
Not only do illegal Palestinian workers face the risk of being detained, but also the risk of working without a contract to protect them from exploitation.
Highlighting the vulnerability of Palestinian laborers to employers’ exploitation as a result to their ‘illegal’ status, MIFTAH said that many times illegal Palestinian workers are denied minimum wages and their working days are underwritten, which later affects the employment benefits and insurance they are entitled to.
They also face the risk of being caught and physically assaulted by Israeli border police. Though Israel claims detention helps deter others from attempting to enter Israel illegally, Israeli officials frequentlyassault detainees upon detention or while in custody.
MIFTAH stated, “They also use it to threaten and to try to coerce people to “collaborate” with them on security matters.”
Human rights groups and organizations affirm that most of the time when such abuses and threats are committed, involved Israeli police members are not held accountable and the workers are rarely treated fairly.