Every foreign agricultural worker was sexually assaulted in Israel, according to a new report presented to the Knesset’s Special Committee on Foreign Workers yesterday. Shocking levels of abuse were uncovered by the report, whose authors issued a warning that “The State of Israel has abandoned these women.”
Compiled by immigration experts, Dr Yahel Kurlander and Dr Shahar Shoham, the report found that 100 per cent of foreign agriculture workers were sexually assaulted. Out of 654 Thai foreign workers questioned, all of them said they had been exposed to sexual assault.
However, with more than 25,000 Thai migrant workers said to be working in Israel and supplying the majority of the labour for Israel’s agriculture industry, the number of workers suffering sexual abuse is likely to be much higher.
“The State of Israel has abandoned these women,” Kurlander is reported saying in the Jerusalem Post. “A woman that wants to complain has no clear course of action.”
The shocking findings are, however, not fully represented in government statistics which has failed to grasp the full extent of the crisis.
Currently, there does not appear to be a proper and secure means available to foreign workers who have been victims of sexual abuse to lodge a complaint. A major concern for foreign workers is the repercussion of speaking out.
The fear faced by migrant workers of losing their job and residency following a complaint of abuse was highlighted. “If a foreign worker is required to quit her job due to a complaint she filed, she is also, in fact, losing her place of residence,” noted Shiri Lev-Ran, the commissioner for the rights of foreign workers in the Economy Ministry.
Representatives from the National Insurance Institute (NII) and Israel Police acknowledged that their systems do not possess the necessary data for complaints from foreign workers and immigrants. A follow-up discussion is expected over the failure.
A risk in the rise of sexual abuse of foreign workers in Israel had been predicted last year when the government agreed to a new deal for overseeing the flow of migration. The process was taken away from the oversight of the United Nations migration agency (IOM) and placed in the hands of Israel and Thailand’s Department of Employment (DOE).
Concerns have also grown over the rise of sexual abuse within the Israeli army, where there has been a 24 per cent rise in sexual harassment.