Malawians who abandoned Israeli farms deported

A wine farm in Israeli desert
Israeli farms needed workers after it stopped giving visa to Palestinians after the attacks by Hama in October 2023 [Getty]

Twelve Malawians have been deported from Israel after leaving the farms where they were working, to get higher salaries elsewhere.

The 12 Malawians were among more than 40 foreign workers who were arrested while working at a bakery in Tel Aviv last week.

The workers, who were part of a labour agreement between Israel and Malawi, were unhappy with working conditions in the agricultural sector and found work in a bakery instead.

Israel's ambassador to Malawi Michael Lotem told the BBC: "Anybody who violates his visa terms will be deported – as easy as this, as in any country.

"I hope it will be a sign for others that it is better to stick to the job. Nobody forced them to come, they came to do a job, they should do the job that is all."

Last week, Benzani, a Malawian working in Israel, told the BBC that some of his compatriots working on other farms were being paid less than the minimum wage in Israel.

"The minimum wage in Israel is 32 shekels ($8.60; £6.85) an hour, but some of us are being paid 18 to 20 shekels an hour."

Benzani said many of them had signed contracts which said they would receive $1,500 a month.

Benzani is not one of those who were deported.

Mr Lotem said that rather than leaving the farms and breaking the conditions of their visas, they should have lodged a complaint.

“If someone thinks that he is not getting what he deserves, there is a hotline and a phone number they can call

"Violating the law is not the answer.

"The Israeli police shows zero tolerance to illegal activity especially these days when we have so many other troubles,” Mr Lotem said.

Those deported were part of a labour drive by the Israeli government last year to fill a shortage of agricultural workers following October's deadly attacks on Israel by Hamas.

This led Israel to stop giving permits to Palestinians to work on its farms, while 10,000 migrant farm workers - mostly Thai nationals - left Israel after war broke out.

More than 200 Malawians went to Israel, while Kenya agreed to send 1,500 workers.

The announcement of the deal sparked mixed reactions in Kenya, with some concerned about their safety.

The two governments said it would help reduce unemployment in their countries.

Mr Lotem also said that a new agreement had been signed for another 3,000 Malawians to go and work in Israel.

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