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Equidem Statement: Israel and Palestinian armed groups must respect rights of workers caught in conflict. 


27 November 2023



Israel and Palestinian armed groups must respect rights of workers caught in conflict.  


Israel and Palestinian armed groups must respect the protected status of migrant workers as civilians under international humanitarian law, Equidem said today following the release of migrant worker and other hostages taken by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups during the October 7th attacks on Israel.

Migrant workers from countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines have been killed, injured, taken hostage and subjected to ill treatment due to the ongoing conflict. 

“Yet again, migrant women and men seeking a better life and livelihood abroad end up facing exploitation and abuse. This time, in the most dire of circumstances, they are taken hostage and facing an indiscriminate bombing campaign that may amount to war crimes,” Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem said. 

Foreign state allies of Israel and supporters of Palestinian armed groups must work closely with the governments of migrant worker origin countries to ensure their immediate and unconditional release, along with all other hostages. 

Thailand is the largest source of migrant labor for Israel and Thais were the single biggest group of foreigners taken hostage when Hamas took some 240 people when it attacked southern Israel October 7. About 30,000 Thais, almost all of whom are male agricultural workers, many who labour on the border with Gaza, are in Israel.

The Thai government has offered repatriation flights for its citizens, and 7,415 have reportedly returned, but many are reluctant to leave because of debts they owe associated with acquiring the jobs they have in Israel. This system of debt-bondage is consistent with Equidem’s findings of the treatment of migrant labourers around the world, including in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  

“Migrant workers are the backbone of the global economy. Time and time again, Equidem has documented the exploitation and abuse these women and men face on the margins of the societies and economies they help to sustain,” Qadri said.

Equidem also expresses it serious concern about the wider armed conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with independent human rights organizations documenting what may amount to indiscriminate and deliberate killing and forced displacement of an unprecedented number of children and other civilians in Gaza by Israeli forces. This follows the mass killing of civilians by Palestinian armed groups in Israel on October 7, both of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On November 23rd, UN human rights experts, known as special rapporteurs, issued their second statement expressing their concerns that violations committed by Israel forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, “point to a genocide in the making.” 





About Equidem 


Equidem is a rightsholder-centered organization committed to advancing labour rights and human rights globally. Equidem employs a unique approach, placing rightsholders at the forefront not only of our work but as members of our team to bridge the gap between the international and grassroots human rights movements. We focus on innovative, rigorous and impactful evidence-based advocacy and campaigns and are specialists in exposing injustice in high-surveillance and sensitive contexts, whether it’s megasporting events in the Gulf, prison-like consumer-brand supply chains in special economic zones, or industries at the heart of the just transition. Equidem is headquartered in the UK with mixed expert and rightsholder teams in East, West and South Africa, South and South East Asia, and the Arab Gulf region.