Israel targets Sri Lankan workers to replace deported Palestinians
By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): Israel has turned to India and Sri Lanka in its search for much-needed workers to revive its largely comatose construction industry, after the country deported thousands of Palestinian workers and revoked their work permits following Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on it.
Around 82,000 Palestinians worked in the country’s construction industry prior to the assault, accounting for a third of the sector’s workforce.
The 10,000 Sri Lankan workers will join some 9,000 compatriots already in Israel, working in farming and care for the elderly.
The first group selected for jobs in the Israeli agricultural sector left for Israel from the Katunayake Airport ob the 18, the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) said.
Accordingly, thirty persons were included in this group. Another group of twenty left for Israel on the 19, with an additional group of thirty have bee sent to Israelom theeame day
Minister of labour Manusha Nanyakkera stated that according to a bilateral agreement between the two countries, 10,000 workers will be able to fly to Israel in the next few weeks.
It has seen a steep increase in the number of people migrating since the economic crisis in tye island , with about 312,000 leaving in 2022 and 268,000 this year, government data shows.
They have gone to countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
Left without these workers – as well as another 2,000 from China and Eastern Europe who returned home after Oct 7 – construction sites across Israel have gone quiet, significantly denting the country’s economy.
The labour shortage has been exacerbated by the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of Israeli reservists for the war against Hamas.
The Israel Builders Association (IBA) estimates that the industry, one of the country’s biggest economic sectors with a market size valued at US$71 billion (S$94 billion) in 2022, has been operating at just 15 percent of its pre-war capacity.
This has brought urgency to the recruitment of fresh foreign workers, and representatives from IBA will be in India and Sri Lanka next week to screen applicants for various roles such as plastering, ceramic tiling, building formwork and iron bending.
“The goal is bringing 10,000 (workers) very quickly to Israel because time is running (out) and we are already in a big, big problem financially,” Mr Shay Pauzner, IBA’s deputy director-general, told The Straits Times on the phone from Tel Aviv.
These workers are expected to be in Israel by the end of January, as “we are working very fast because the situation is very, very dire”, he added.
They are part of a batch of 30,000 new workers that the Israeli government has allowed the IBA to recruit from different countries.
On Dec 15, the Haryana Kaushal Rozgar Nigam, a government recruitment agency in the Indian state of Haryana, put out an advertisement calling for construction workers for Israel.