The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) condemns the International Labour Organization’s disregard for the violations and criminal attacks against workers in the Gaza Strip, within the occupied lands. These workers face assaults, arbitrary arrests, and confiscation of their belongings and wages by the occupying authorities. The Center criticizes the lack of attention to media-documented testimonies of victims and the failure to collect data on these workers to investigate the attacks they have endured.
ECESR emphasizes that the statement issued by the Director-General of the organization on October 27, 2023, raises doubts about his impartiality and commitment to its principles. The statement overlooks the disappearance of thousands of workers in the Gaza Strip and the party responsible for the deaths of workers from international organizations, relief agencies, medical facilities, emergency services, civil defense, journalism, and media. These events require clear condemnation and immediate investigation, rather than equating the victims with the perpetrators.
The center points out that the timing of the issuance of the statement by the Director-General of the International Labour Organization coincided with thousands of workers from the Gaza Strip being either trapped or detained in the occupation’s prisons, without any mention of these crimes committed against them.
Another statement by the organization on November 6, 2023, reveals a deliberate bias towards the occupation’s narrative in describing the massacre against Palestinians. It ignores any condemnation of the occupation’s crimes against civilians, focusing on the loss of at least 61% of job opportunities, equivalent to 182,000 jobs in the Gaza Strip, without acknowledging the occupation’s responsibility for this tragedy.
The organization’s statement indicated that the labor market situation in Gaza was extremely dire even before the current conflict. Residents of Gaza have long suffered from persistently high poverty rates, fragility, and one of the world’s highest unemployment rates, reaching 46.4% in the second quarter of 2023. Entire neighborhoods in Gaza have been destroyed since last October, and the infrastructure severely damaged. Companies have closed, leading to widespread internal displacement. The scarcity of water, food, and fuel has paralyzed economic activity, ignoring direct mention of the role of the ongoing blockade and aggression in these crimes.
Reports have suggested the deportation of some Gaza workers, returning them to the sector without specifying their actual numbers, putting them at risk of death following their return to homes continually targeted by occupation airstrikes. The fate of those detained in the occupation’s prisons after October 7, 2023, remains undisclosed.
In a previous statement issued by the Egyptian Center, Adel Saba’neh, the media official at the “Sharek” Youth Forum in Palestine and one of the volunteers assisting Gaza workers, stated that nearly 13,000 workers from Gaza had been present in the occupied lands since October 7th. Some of them managed to leave directly for the West Bank due to the difficulty of returning to Gaza at that time. Another group remains hidden inside, fearing persecution, while a third group is detained by the occupation police.
Saba’neh explained to the “Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights” that Ramallah in the West Bank received more than 3,000 workers, in addition to others who headed to neighboring Palestinian provinces and shelter centers. All of them bear signs of assault by the occupation forces after their expulsion and pursuit.
The Palestinian activist pointed out that the number of workers from Gaza detained in the occupation’s prisons is estimated to be in the hundreds, with no information about their fate or the conditions of their detention. He noted that the released individuals so far do not exceed dozens, all of whom are in poor health and have been subjected to torture and physical and psychological abuse. Hebrew media outlets have estimated the number of deported workers at 3,000.
Gaza workers who have moved to shelters in the West Bank are living in difficult humanitarian conditions. While enduring torture, abuse, and the loss of their livelihoods, they are constantly worried about the fate of their families in the Gaza Strip. This anxiety persists amid reports of the Israeli occupation expanding its aggression on Gaza, with hundreds of casualties reported daily, according to Saba’neh.
According to media reports, on Friday, November 3, 2023, Israeli authorities began deporting thousands of Palestinian workers stranded since October 7 to the Gaza Strip amid continuous and intense shelling on the besieged region. During this time, many of them were subjected to torture, and their belongings were stolen.
The Israeli Security Cabinet stated in a release that Gaza workers who were in Israel at the start of the war would be returned to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, east of the Rafah border crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt. The statement added, “Israel is cutting all ties with Gaza. There will be no Palestinian workers from Gaza.”
The Egyptian Center, expressing its complete condemnation for the International Labour Organization’s disregard for these crimes, reiterates the demand for an immediate investigation into these assaults through an independent international committee. Moreove, the center calls on the organization to fulfill its role in working to ascertain the fate of the previously mentioned workers.
The Egyptian Center urges officials at the International Labour Organization to review reports from UN Special Rapporteurs on crimes committed against Palestinian civilians, including workers in the Gaza Strip.
The center emphasizes that the content of these reports and others should not be approached solely with a “concern-raising” logic but should be followed by effective interventions to halt these crimes.
It is worth noting that a delegation from independent Egyptian unions has announced its intention to head to the International Labour Organization’s headquarters in Cairo on Monday, November 13, 2023, to submit a memorandum of objection to the statement issued by the Director-General of the International Labour Organization on October 27th regarding the current situation in occupied Palestine.
The delegation includes representatives from unions of ambulance workers, telecommunications, adult education, tourism, fishermen in Damietta, driver services in Qalyubia, and the Drinking Water and Sanitation Authority in Qena.