A form of Slave Trading openly visible every day
I am referring to the situation seen regularly by those Eilatis who pass through the industrial area. I say Eilatis, because this is not a part of the city visited by tourists. I doubt that most tourists even know of its existence. There is one notorious roundabout situated on the border where industrial area ends and the residential area begins.
It is here that scores of hopeful Black migrants hang out waiting to be offered a job.
They stand huddled in small groups, trying to keep warm in the early morning cold and to protect themselves from the wind. Often they wait for hours – sometimes all day, for the work offer that may not come.
Every so often a vehicle stops in front of them. The potential employer, if new to the recruitment process, imagines that it’s a simple matter of selecting the number of workers required and agreeing the price. In principle it is. In practice he (or she) will not be prepared for the seething mass of bodies that surround the car in seconds.
Neither will he expect the frantic pulling at the door handles as the potential workers seek to pre-empt the selection process by placing themselves inside the car. Since the employer has no way of knowing their relative skills and abilities, and,anyway, they all look more or less the same, the situation rapidly becomes one of practical application of Darwinian theory. The survival of the fittest. In this case it’s the strongest and most aggressively dominant.The migrants learned that it’s physically and psychologically difficult to dislodge them once they have staked their claim to a seat.
The next stage is the haggling about the hourly rate.
The type of workers being sought usually fall into the category of unskilled. Much of the work on offer is simple, repetitive and often dirty and unpleasant. I understand that the current going rate is around $6.00 – $9.00 an hour. This translates, for a full day’s work, to around $70.00 – in cash!
In most of the countries from which these migrants originate, the average wage is around $100.00 per month – or less. So it becomes easier to understand why they are willing to tolerate, and even welcome, the, seemingly, inhumane and humiliating conditions of their quest for work. Even if they only find work for 2/3 days a week, they earn up to ten times the rate back home.
The concept of casual hourly paid work is not unique to Israel. I’m sure that similar scenes are taking place every day, all over the world. What makes this situation somewhat different is that the majority of these migrants are in Israel illegally, and are forbidden to work by law. Employers can, theoretically, face huge fines. A minimum of $3000 for the first offence, increasing incrementally for subsequent offences. So how can this procedure be carried out every day and so openly? On the one hand there is the reality of market forces – supply and demand.
There is always a requirement for casual work, and there is now a seemingly infinite reservoir of workers.
On the other hand is the phenomenon that a deliberate decision has been taken by the government, with the full agreement of the police, not to enforce the law. The rationale being the fear of what would happen if these people could not work. How would they live? Social security? The Israeli electorate wouldn’t tolerate that for very long.The police are afraid that, out of desperation, the migrants would resort to crime. So this is the status quo.
Every so often, the municipality decides that this sea of Black humanity is just socially unacceptable in its dominance of the area. Inspectors are sent to remove them. The result is that they simply relocate a few hundred meters away to a less predominant spot. After a day or two the inspectors leave; within a week the original location is fully populated again. The logic of this cat and mouse game totally escapes me.
The Mayor of Eilat, Meir Yitzhak-Halevi, has repeatedly complained
that the government is ignoring the fact that Eilat has the highest proportion of these illegals in Israel. He even tried to promote a campaign for their removal. However, he was forced to retreat in the face of concerted opposition from various human rights NGO’s, and the local businesses that depend on this form of cheap labour.
Estimates place the number of illegal migrants at between 6000 – 10,000. That is a massive number in a city of only 60,000! The effect on the social fabric of the city is considerable. There are neighbourhoods in which you have to think twice before reassuring yourself that you are actually in Eilat.
But for those who find the labour of these workers invaluable, even, as in case of the hotels and restaurants, essential, the problem is viewed differently. They claim that their businesses simply could not exist without the migrants. Most hotels have come to an arrangement with the Interior and Labour ministries, that permits them to use migrant labour through some sort of legal structure.
But for the rest, it’s a case of driving to the Industrial Area and seeing what can be picked up off the street.
Of course, it’s not really slavery. The workers do get paid, and at a rate that is acceptable to them.
But to see the circumstances of their recruitment, and to witness the desperate rush towards any vehicle that even slows down near to them, does not give me a good feeling.
Slave market is the only expression that comes to mind.
Andyboy – Telling it as it is!
For background information on the origins of the illegal migrants, and how they reached Eilat, click on this link below: