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.
The airlifting of the young people by an Israeli Airbus A321-251 plane overnight Saturday has since angered many Malawians. The move follows a $60 million aid package from Israel to Malawi two weeks ago.
Labour Ministry Principal Secretary Labour Wezi Kayira said exporting labour to various countries, including Israel, is one way of creating jobs for youth and generating foreign exchange for the southeastern African nation, which has a population of 20 million.
“This programme will benefit both individuals and the nation. A portion of wages will cover their living cost in Israel while the remainder will be remitted to personal accounts here in Malawi to boost foreign exchange,” Kayira said in a statement shared with Anadolu.
He also stressed that the Malawian youth are not going to fight in Israel’s war on Gaza but “will work at certified and approved locations, which are classified as fit and safe environments.”
Gift Trapence, the chairman of Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a civil rights group, questioned the secrecy surrounding the labour export deal with Israel.
“We condemn the government for being secretive on the labour export agreement it has entered with Israel. Government actions on labour export to Israel should be transparent,” Trapence said.
Opposition leader in Malawi parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa, who first raised the issue in parliament on Thursday, told Anadolu via telephone that the government opted to keep the issue secret because it knows this is an “evil transaction.”
“Government has gone into such an agreement with Israeli companies when it is fully aware that there is war. No sane parent can send his or her child to work in a country that is at war,” Nankhumwa said.
The Israeli Agriculture Ministry is on record as having said that between 30,000 and 40,000 workers have left the country’s farms, half of whom are Palestinians who were barred from entering Israel from the occupied West Bank since the October 7 attack.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government is looking to recruit some 5,000 workers from other countries, including Malawi.