Neelam Rahim | firstname.lastname@example.org
03 December 2023 | 16:14 CAT
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has come under fire for keeping secret his government’s decision to send about 221 young people to work on farms in Israel.
This decision, implemented on Saturday, comes after Israel’s recent aid contribution of $60 million (£47 million) to support Malawi’s economic recovery.
The labour export deal has been criticised amid concerns over the secrecy with which it was done and the potential risks to citizens at a time when Israel conflicts with the Palestinian Hamas group.
Malawi’s opposition leader, Kondwani Nankhumwa, criticized the deal in parliament, referring to it as “an evil transaction,” stating that “no sane parent can send his or her child to a country that is at war.”
“Sending people to a war-torn country like Israel, where some countries are withdrawing their labour is something unheard of,” Malawian Nankhumwa said.
Nankhumwa also questioned why the government had kept the deal secret, only informing parliament about a plan to send workers to an unnamed country on 22 November.
Malawian Investigative Journalist Rex Chikoko told Radio Islam International that the Israel Ambassador has approached several African governments to recruit young people, to which Malawai responded quickly.”
The government has defended the deal, saying it will export Malawians to Israel and other countries to “fulfil this administration’s commitment to job creation and youth empowerment”.
The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has said 30,000 to 40,000 workers have left the country’s farms since the October 7 attacks by Hamas on southern Israel. Half of them are Palestinians, whom Israel has barred from entering from the occupied West Bank. Consequently, it has been hunting for up to 5,000 workers from elsewhere, including from its loyal ally Malawi.
Authorities from the two countries have assured that the recruits will not be involved in warfare. But commentators are nevertheless questioning the timing and wondering if Malawi can repatriate its citizens if anything goes wrong as the war continues.
Chikoko said there are concerns from the people of Malawicm, considering the Middle East is not as safe as expected and can affect Malawi like everybody else.
“The concerns are what plans of evacuation for the young men the Malawi government has put in place in the event that some misfortune may occur,” Chikoko added.
Listen to the full interview on The Insight with Annisa Essack.