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Migrant workers forced to remain in Israeli fields as rockets fall

Thai field workers in the south of Israel are left in the open as farmers fail to provide portable shelters.
A Thai labourer works in a watermelon field near the southern Israeli town of Sderot March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (ISRAEL - Tags: AGRICULTURE) - RTR2JEIS
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The nongovernmental organization Worker's Hotline, which advocates for workers' rights, estimates that about 10,000 Thai workers are employed in Israel, most of them in the fields of the south — places described these days in the media as “open spaces.” When Israelis hear on the news that a rocket from Gaza landed in an open area, as opposed to one that is built up, they feel relieved. But for the Thai laborers, the fields are a battlefront in every sense, except that for the most part they are not equipped with shelters or an Iron Dome missile defense system. And so, sadly, a foreign laborer was killed on July 23 by a mortar shell while working in one of the hothouses in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

In recent weeks, some Thai workers have posted photos on their Facebook pages, as well as on the page of the Worker's Hotline, showing their predicament since the start of the clashes in the south. They took pictures of themselves standing next to iron poles scarred by bullet holes, inside hothouses destroyed by rockets and also cowering under trees — absent any real shelter. According to the Worker's Hotline, ”Although the hiring of migrant farm laborers is now governed by a bilateral agreement between the two countries, neither country takes upon itself the responsibility for the workers’ safety in times of war."

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