[Stop-traffic] NGO/Israel: The "Hotline for Detained Foreign Workers"

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] NGO/Israel: The "Hotline for Detained Foreign Workers"
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Nov 20 2000 - 09:14:03 EST

Hotline for Detained Foreign Workers
78, Allenby St. POB 25307, Tel Aviv 61251
Tel: 03-5173533 Fax: 03-5103081
e-mail: mcharbit@netvision.net.il
Registered Association No. 58033309

The "Hotline for Detained Foreign Workers"

In Israel, legal and illegal foreign workers are too often mistreated
by their employers. Many workers do not receive salaries and many
live in sub-standard housing. Their children and spouses are denied
health care. These workers are often unaware of their basic rights
during their stay in Israel, and as a result are reluctant to report
infractions to the authorities. The Hotline for Detained Foreign
Workers is a non-profit organization which was established in
November 1998 to represent the foreign workers community in Israel
when they are being imprisoned upon illegal stay in the country.
The goals of our organization are:
1) To provide support and counseling to detained foreign workers and
their families.
2) To protect the rights of foreign workers through social and
legislative changes.
3) To prevent racism and to promote multi-cultural understanding
through educational programs
Our activities:
The hotline: Detainees and their families call our hotline for help
in many situations. Our volunteers provide crisis intervention
through working with other volunteer organizations and the proper
authorities. The hotline is open for at least five hours every day.
To date, we handle approximately 60 cases per month.
Visits to Prison: Our volunteers visit our clients in prison weekly
and refer them to individuals or organizations that offer them legal
or medical assistance. We contact the workers' employers or landlords
and try to obtain their last salaries or rent that had been paid in
advance. We distribute our phone number and inform detainees of our
services and their legal rights.
Public activities and promotion of judicial change: We seek to
enforce the existing rights of foreign workers in Israel and look for
avenues to fine employers who do not meet their legal requirements.
Through lobbying actions and appeals to High court of justice, we
influence the judicial process so that people won't be kept for long
periods in jail without even seeing a judge. We meet with
decision-makers and put pressure on the State for it to think over
the deportation policy and its severe limits.
Media: Our organization brings specific cases to the media to
increase public awareness of the injustices suffered by the foreign
Education: We are underwriting an educational program for children
ages 10 to 12 that will promote multi-cultural understanding and
prevention of xenophobia. A pilot program is planned to start within
three months.
We anticipate that our efforts will lead both the Israeli public and
government to a change of attitude toward foreign workers, guarantee
their basic human rights, and the Israeli society shall become more
pluralistic and open. We believe that the fulfillment of these goals
will benefit both the foreign workers as well as the Israeli society.
"And thou shall not oppress the stranger, and you know how it feels
to be a stranger, because you have been strangers in the Land of
Egypt." Exodus 23:9.

Hotline for Detained Foreign Workers
78 Allenby Street, Tel Aviv
Registered Association:58033309
Tel: 03-5173533
Fax: 03-5173081

The ìHotline for Detained Foreign Workersî
  is a voluntary organization founded on August 98.
We are about 45 volunteers who try to help foreign workers
who were arrested and about to be deported from Israel.

We are a voluntary, registered, apolitical organization. We decided
to get organized when we saw the unjust, indifferent, and sometimes
cruel behavior that illegal foreign workers in Israel face when
caught by the Israeli authorities. These people, who should be
deported from the country with no delays according to the Israeli
law, are being imprisoned for long periods (sometimes a few months).
Some of them are held in prison until they manage to raise money for
their flight ticket to their countries. Many of them leave their last
salary or even greater sums of money in their last employer's hands.
Many times they are forced to give up rent payments made a few months
in advance. Sometimes their own employers turn them in to the police
in order to avoid paying them their wages. Others have to give up the
little property they managed to acquire during their stay in the
country. Once the workers have been arrested, their basic human
rights are totally ignored. They never see a judge or a court of
law, and the result is that from the moment of their arrest, they
exist in a legal limbo. They are non-existent as far as the Israeli
law is concerned and cannot defend any of their rights. The
authorities make sure they do not get to a court of law in order to
keep them in legal limbo.

The purpose of our organization is to help imprisoned foreign workers
and their families in any lawful way possible: We visit them in
prison and connect them to individuals or organizations that can
offer them legal or medical advice. When requested to do so, and when
the worker presents a real legal claim, we contact the worker's
employer or landlord to try to obtain the workerís last salary
payments or rent paid in advance. We connect between the worker and
his family / friends to make sure that his property is saved for him.

We intend to create an awareness of public opinion of the difficult
conditions in which these workers are being kept, and the great
injustice they suffer here. We shall especially propagate their cause
among the sectors dealing with the foreign workers. We hope that our
efforts will lead to a change of attitude towards the foreign
workers, and will ensure their basic human and legal rights. We hope
that public awareness will help change government policy towards the
foreign worker issue in general. We do not encourage bringing foreign
workers to Israel. Our claim is that the Israeli government has
created the situation that encouraged the influx of these workers to
fill in the ranks of the Palestinian workers. It now has to take
responsibility for the results. Each allegedly illegal worker should
be able to exercise his basic human rights, regarding the state, his
employers, and landlord. (Exodus) 23:9: Ve ger lo tilhatz ,ve atem
yeda`atem et nefesh ha- ger, ki gerim heitem be eretz Mitzrayim. (And
thou shall not oppress the stranger, and you know how it feels to be
a starnger, because you have been strangers in the Land of Egypt). We
feel that a civilized society as we claim to be should be ashamed of
the continued existence of this situation, and should look for the
proper ways to amend it.

Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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