More and More Foreign Caregivers in Israel Are Being Incarcerated

Kav LaOved – Worker’s Hotline – has been witness to an increase in the detention of foreign caregivers in Israel during periods when they are working as replacement caregivers (for those who wish to go home on vacation or have fallen ill) or during the period they are provided to arrange their affairs prior to returning home.

“Only a month ago, we dealt with a worker who was arrested the day before she began legal work as a replacement caregiver. We are now urging the authorities to clarify their procedures and allow the caregivers to move freely between employers. This story, in which a woman spent ten days in prison without any cause, shows not only the incompetence of the Immigration Authority, which enabled unjustified incarceration, but also the terrible restraints experienced by migrant workers in Israel,” a Kav LaOved spokeswoman said.

This is exactly what happened to S., an in-home caregiver from India. Suddenly, S. found her world turned upside down. She went from having a valid work visa and steady employment to being a jailed candidate for deportation.

S., a 43-year-old woman, came to Israel about seven years ago after paying $US 6,000 in brokerage fees in her country for the right to work in Israel. She worked as a caregiver for a disabled woman and afterwards for an elderly woman and had always gotten along with her patients. Six months ago, she received a message from India telling her that her husband had suddenly died from a heart attack. S. flew home urgently to be with her family. A week later, while in India, the elderly woman she had taken care of for almost four years died.

When she returned to Israel, S. found a new family that wanted to employ her and went right back to work. A few months after she began her new position, the family decided that S. did not suit them. They canceled their application for a visa to extend her employment, but failed to tell S. this crucial fact.

S. left for her weekly day off on Sunday and, when at the Central Bus Station, was detained by the Immigration Police, who informed her, to her complete shock, that the old woman she had been caring for had withdrawn her application for an extended work visa for S. The Immigration Police issued a restraining order and decided that, until she would deported, S. must be held in “custody.”

For five days, S. was in jail, until her friends came to Kav LaOved’s office in a panic, and we discovered that she was imprisoned in Givon Prison.
Thanks to Kav LaOved’s Attorney and Migrant Caregiving Coordinator, Meytal Russo, S. was released, but not without a fight from the Immigration Authorities which made claims against S., that were at best mistakes and at worst simply false. In the end, the judge in the case ordered S. be released and gave her 47 days during which time she can either try to find another employer or arrange for her departure back home. However, in light of the standing deportation order, it will be very difficult for her to find an employer without a struggle.

Kav LaOved – Worker’s Hotline – is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the defense of worker’s rights and the enforcement of labor laws designed to protect every worker in Israel, irrespective of nationality, religion, gender, and legal status. Since its establishment in 1991, Kav LaOved has helped thousands of workers from all sectors realize and uphold their rights.