MEA assures safety, advises caution for Indian workers in Israel

| Updated: 05 April, 2024 12:32 pm IST

New Delhi: Amidst escalating concerns over the safety and well-being of Indian workers departing for Israel, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a cautious statement, emphasizing the need for heightened vigilance. The first batch of Indian construction workers, totaling 64 individuals from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, embarked on their journey to Israel on April 2 under a Mobility Agreement signed between the two countries.
This move comes amidst Israel’s urgent requirement for construction labourers, particularly to fill the void left by Palestinian workers following the conflict with Hamas in October 2023.

MEA spokesperson underscored the historical context of the Mobility Agreement, asserting its precedence over the ongoing conflict. “As you are aware, these workers have gone to Israel as part of a Mobility Agreement that we have signed with the country. This agreement predates the conflict,” stated the spokesperson.

Expressing concern for the safety of the departing workers, the MEA has urged Israeli authorities to prioritize their security. “We are conscious of their safety. We have urged the Israeli authorities to ensure their safety and well-being,” the spokesperson reiterated.

The departure of Indian workers to Israel comes at a critical juncture, with tensions running high in the region following recent geopolitical developments. The MEA’s cautionary tone reflects the government’s commitment to safeguarding the interests and welfare of its citizens abroad.

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Responding to queries regarding the assurance of workers’ safety, particularly concerning their deployment in conflict zones or occupied settlements, the Ministry of External Affairs remained silent. However, Minister of State V. Muraleedharan affirmed that Indian workers in Israel would be entitled to equal treatment under labour laws, including lodging, medical insurance, social security coverage, and prescribed wages and benefits.

Israeli Ambassador Naor Gilon, alongside government officials, presided over the farewell ceremony for the departing workers. These workers, meticulously recruited over recent months through extensive drives in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are part of a larger cohort of 10,000 individuals slated to be flown to Israel in the coming weeks. Scheduled to fly almost daily, these batches will be transported via Air India flights and chartered planes, as outlined by the National Skill Development Council during a presentation at the farewell event organized by the Israeli Embassy.

While initial reports suggested a business-to-business recruitment arrangement, the Ministry of External Affairs later clarified that the workers are traveling under a government-to-government agreement, established as part of the India-Israel mobility partnership inked in 2023. Ambassador Gilon expressed optimism about the workers’ role as “ambassadors” fostering strong people-to-people relations between the two nations.

While the departure marks a significant milestone in Indo-Israeli relations, concerns persist regarding the ethical implications and safety considerations surrounding the employment of Indian workers in Israel’s construction sector amidst ongoing conflicts and geopolitical tensions.

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