More than 10,000 applications have been received, according to Manusha Nanayakkara, Sri Lanka’s minister of labor and international employment, to work on Israeli farms.
Laknath Dias, a supermarket manager, says he can’t handle the economic turmoil in his own country of Sri Lanka. Despite the fighting with Hamas, he is preparing to travel to Israel in December to work as a farmhand for almost ten times the money.
According to a Sri Lankan minister who spoke to Reuters on Thursday, Dias is one of 20,000 laborers that Sri Lanka, short on cash and remittances, intends to send to Israel early next month to work in the construction and farming industries.
Thousands of Thai and Palestinian laborers have long been employed by Israel’s farms, the majority of which are located in the country’s center and south, to till the land and bring in the crops.
However, following the October 7 Hamas attack, a substantial number of Thais left Israel, and Palestinians are essentially prohibited from working, which forces farms to post an SOS for labor during harvest season.
Dias, 39, claimed to have firsthand experience of conflict.
He remarked, “We lived during a war in Sri Lanka,” alluding to the civil war that Sri Lanka waged from 1983 to 2009 against Tamil rebels.
I’ve worked in combat regions in the east around 2005, as well as in Colombo where there were occasionally suicide bombers going off, Thus, I believe we can get by. We’ve worked on farms before, so I know we can handle anything.”
He claims that the high cost of living makes his pay of 72,000 rupees ($219) per month insufficient to support his family of five. Dias intends to work as a farmhand in Israel for five years, with an expected salary of roughly 700,000 rupees.
Manusha Nanayakkara, Sri Lanka’s minister of labor and international employment, stated that workers’ security would be taken into consideration after receiving over 10,000 applications to work on Israeli farms.
Additionally, we plan to send an additional 10,000 people to the construction industry.
According to Israeli estimates, militants from Hamas broke through the border fence and killed 1,200 people while taking approximately 240 prisoners. This prompted Israel to declare war on Gaza. Since then, Israeli shelling in Gaza has killed over 14,000 Palestinians, according to health officials in the region controlled by Hamas.
Together with the 9,000 or so Sri Lankans now working in agriculture and elder care in Israel, the new laborers will come from that country.
According to the World Bank, during the greatest economic crisis the island nation has seen in over 70 years, Sri Lanka’s GDP shrank by 7.8% last year, plunging 2.5 million people into poverty.
According to government figures, there has been a sharp increase in the number of migrants since the crisis, with roughly 312,000 leaving in 2022 and 268,000 this year. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand are among the nations to which they have traveled.