Malawi has quietly launched a program to export labour to Israel, sending 221 young people to work on farms there. The move has been met with criticism from opposition politicians and human rights groups, who question the secrecy surrounding the deal and the safety of the workers in light of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The Labor Ministry’s Principal Secretary, Labour Wezi Kayira, defended the program, saying that it will provide employment opportunities for Malawian youth and generate foreign exchange for the country. He also stressed that the workers will not be recruited to fight in Israel’s war against Hamas, but will work in certified and approved locations.
However, Gift Trapence, the chairperson of Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a civil rights group, questioned the government’s decision to keep the program secret. “We condemn the government for being secretive on the labour export agreement it has entered with Israel,” Trapence told Anadolu Agency. “Government actions on labour export to Israel should be transparent.”
Opposition leader in Malawi’s parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa, echoed Trapence’s concerns, saying that the government is hiding the true nature of the deal because it knows that it is “an evil transaction.” “No sane parent can send his or her child to work in a country that is at war,” Nankhumwa said.
The Israeli agriculture ministry has said that between 30,000 and 40,000 foreign workers have left the country’s farms since the October 7 attacks. The Israeli government is now looking to recruit 5,000 workers from other countries, including Malawi.
The decision to send Malawian workers to Israel has raised concerns about the safety of the workers, given the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli air force has carried out airstrikes in Gaza, and Hamas has fired rockets into Israel.
In addition to the security concerns, there are concerns about the working conditions that the Malawian workers will face in Israel. The Israeli agriculture sector is known for its use of migrant workers, who often work long hours for low wages in poor conditions.