Parliament approves export of 10,000 labourers to Israeli farms

FILE - The entrance of the Malawian parliament is seen July 4, 2019, in Lilongwe, Malawi.Labor activists frown at recruitment process for hiring workers, saying politics shouldn't be involved

Blantyre, Malawi (VOA):- Malawi’s parliament has allowed the government to proceed with its program to send 10,000 labourers to work on farms and industries in Israel.

The parliament approved the program on Feb. 15, 2024, after a government fact-finding mission to Israel to evaluate the living conditions of some 700 Malawians already employed there.

Presenting the report in parliament, leader of the fact-finding mission Joyce Chitsulo said the delegation had several engagements in Israel including a meeting with Israeli cabinet ministers, a visit to Israel’s parliament, and a meeting with labour agents and the workers.

“On their part, the Malawian workers generally indicated that they were working according to their contracts and were being treated well. As such the delegation encourages both government and Malawian youths to take advantage of job opportunities available in Israel,” Chitsulo said.

The visit followed reports that some Malawian workers were running away from Israeli farms for various reasons.

“The workers reported that in some farms, Malawian workers were facing challenges, particularly pay differences, overtime pay and some routine issues of sanitation facilities in some cases, which were being addressed when reported,” Chitsulo said.

She said the challenges were largely because the workers were not well informed on what to expect in Israel before they left Malawi.

Malawi began promoting work in Israel last year with the goal of generating more foreign exchange revenue. Finance Minister Simplex Chithyola Banda said this week that $735,000 has already been transferred to Malawi through the Israel labour export arrangement.

Currently, Malawians are recruited through agents in Malawi and Israel who have agreements with Israeli farmers in need of workers.

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Chitsulo said the government needs to set up a more comprehensive program.

“Considering that there is competition from other countries to export labor to Israel, it is imperative for the government of Malawi to expedite the process of signing [a] government-to-government agreement that would guide formal operationalization of labor export,” she said.

The lawmakers in Malawi have supported the recommendations, saying doing so will help provide opportunity for those living in rural areas. Until now, most workers going to Israel have come from urban areas.

Bertha Mackenzie Ndebele, the lawmaker for Balaka west in southern Malawi, said, “We have a lot of young men and women who are loitering around, but they have finished school but have nothing to do. As Balaka west, we are happy to join the other women who are in Israel.”

However, labor activists say involving politicians in recruiting the workers is wrong.

“In constituencies there are people of different political affiliations,” said Luther Mambala, former president of the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions. “What will happen to those people who do not belong to the party of that particular MP [member of parliament]? Definitely, they will be trumped down. And they will not access that kind of opportunity because they belong to a different party.”

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Mambala said it would be better if the Ministry of Labor set up employment bureaus to recruit workers on their merits.

Malawi was expected to send 10,000 laborers to work in Israel but according to the leader of the delegation, Chitsulo, Israeli authorities told them that Israel could employ up to 100,000 Malawians.

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