Israel to Sign Bilateral Agreement With Ukraine to Promote Foreign Workers

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (C), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, (L) and MK Zeev Elkin (R) at a special plenary session in honor of the Ukrainian President's official visit to Israel, at the Knesset, Wednesday. Elkin was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko (C), Israel President Reuven Rivlin, (L) and MK Ze’ev Elkin (R) at a special plenary session in honor of the Ukrainian President’s official visit to Israel, at the Knesset, in 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An Israeli delegation from the Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI) left for Ukraine on Sunday in order to expedite bringing more laborers to Israel. This is part of the framework of a bilateral agreement signed by Israel and Ukraine intended to enable the arrival of thousands of much-needed construction workers to Israel in a legal and authorized manner.

Recent statistics show that in Israel there are currently 81,500 legal foreign workers, most of them – 48,000 – in the caregiving field. There are an additional 21,000 working in agriculture and 8,200 who work in construction.

This agreement with Ukraine joins the series of bilateral agreements between Israel and other countries that enable workers to enter the workforce without a go-between and is meant to prevent human trafficking, a global epidemic.

Yossi Edelstein, director of the Foreign Workers’ Enforcement Unit, said there are 148,000 illegal aliens in Israel, including some 91,000 tourists whose visas have expired, 41,477 asylum seekers – most from Eritrea and Sudan, and 15,280 illegal workers. He noted that the number of those refused entry to Israel from the former Soviet Union has doubled in recent years.

Gideon Cohen, the head of the government’s unit for promoting voluntary departure of migrant workers stated that in the past three years 15,086 illegals left Israel of their own accord, 2,679 in 2016, 3,381 in 2015 and 6,414 in 2014. The vast majority returned to their country of origin and only 3,500 moved to other countries. He said that Israeli representatives supervise and monitor what happens after these workers return to their home country.

Founder and Chairman of the CIMI Board, Arnon Mantver, stated that bilateral agreements are crucial for preventing human trafficking.

He noted that each of the types of labor attracts workers from specific countries. Most construction workers are Chinese (3,284) or Moldavian (2,099). Agriculture work attracts Thais (21,034) while caregivers come from several countries, including the Philippines (15,200), India (9,998), Moldova (7,765), Sri Lanka (5,061) and Nepal (3,052).

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