Illegal work permit brokers in the Gaza Strip are preying on Gazan workers who are already reeling under the brunt of a difficult economic situation. These brokers pretend to be capable of issuing legal permits to work inside Israel.
Under the pretext that they have strong relations inside Israel, the brokers lead Gazan workers to think that permits can be secured without the workers having to register their names with the official bodies, where citizens often have to wait long hours without even getting approved for a permit in some cases.
Brokers ask Gazans for amounts ranging between $1,000 to $3,000 in exchange for permits, prompting thousands of workers to borrow money from neighbors and relatives or sell their wives’ jewelry or even their furniture.
M.A., 25, is among the thousands of citizens who fell prey to these illegal brokers.
“I went to the General Authority of Civil Affairs office in Gaza to apply for a work permit, but I had to line up behind thousands and I got tired of waiting. I also registered via the registration link of the authority, but I received no permit,” M.A. told Al-Monitor.
“One day, a broker called N.K. told me to give him my papers under the pretext that he had acquaintances (inside Israel), and that within weeks I would obtain a permit and all I had to do was pay $3,000. But seven months later, he came to me and said that I could not get a permit because I was not allowed in Israel for security reasons,” he recounted.
M.A., still in shock, added, “I filed an official complaint against this broker, but I have no evidence. Everyone told me, ‘The law does not protect the ignorant,’ but this broker is still at large, fooling dozens of men away from any kind of government follow-up.”
Some human rights organizations that follow up on citizens’ complaints in Gaza have monitored several complaints about the spread of illegal work permit brokers. These organizations found that some brokers are influential lawyers who have connections within the government. They also found that sometimes citizens are reluctant to file an official complaint within the Public Prosecution as they still hope to get a permit from these brokers.
Ihab al-Ghussein, undersecretary of the Ministry of Labor in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “We always tell citizens that registration for work permits should go through the unified registration system so that citizens are not blackmailed and exploited and because no one will help them once they are blackmailed. Many cases have been detected, and the relevant security parties are still following up on others.”
Sami al-Amsi, head of Gaza's workers union, told Al-Monitor, “A number of Gazan workers have filed complaints to us about lawyers who claim they can issue permits to work inside Israel who stole their money. A lawyer cannot issue work permits if not supported by a certain party. And what is more shocking is that these lawyers have yet to be held to account as they continue to fool other workers and lure them into paying them money.”
He added, “We (at the union) are neither a judicial nor a governmental body to hold them accountable. Besides, all workers’ complaints are verbal and not official or written. And when I tell workers that we will pursue their cases legally, they back down for fear of losing their permits forever.”