Kenya to send 1,500 farm workers to Israel

 

Kenya is sending 1,500 farm workers to Israel, the labour ministry has said.

The announcement comes nearly two weeks after Malawi sent 221 young people to work on Israeli farms, triggering a backlash against the government there.

The casual workers will be deployed on three-year renewable contracts, "with a guaranteed net [monthly] income" of $1,500, Kenya said.

Israel has turned to Africa to fill a severe labour gap on its farms, after a mass exit of foreign workers.

More than 10,000 migrant farm workers - mostly Thailand nationals - have left Israel since the start of the war with Hamas in early October.

Israel has also barred Palestinian workers, who made up nearly 20% of the agricultural labour force prior to the war.

Israel's ambassador in Kenya, Michael Lotem, told the BBC that Israel was planning to recruit farm workers from Uganda as well, while recruitment in Tanzania had already started.

"We are looking to East Africa to fill the labour gap as we have had student internships programmes in place for many years with these countries and it has been a good experience," Mr Lotem said.

He added that the labour shortage had been caused by the fact that an estimated 360,000 Israeli reservists have been called up for military service since the war started.

He did not cite work restrictions on Palestinians or the departure of foreign nationals as the reasons for the shortage.

Israel's agriculture ministry told CNN last week that the country needed 30-40,000 farm workers.

The announcement has sparked mixed reactions in Kenya, with some concerned about the workers' safety.

At least 32 Thai farm workers were killed and several others taken hostage when Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October.

Tanzanian student Clemence Felix Mtenga - who was in Israel as an agriculture intern - was also killed in the attack, while another Tanzanian student, Joshua Loitu Mollel, is still missing.

Critics have also questioned the conditions the workers will face in Israel.

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