On 14 April 2020, Palestinian, regional and international civil society organisations sent a joint urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures regarding the dire conditions of Palestinian workers in Israel during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Addressed to four UN human rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, the organisations requested the mandate holders’ immediate intervention to uphold the rights and dignity of Palestinian workers in Israel during COVID-19.
The urgent appeal comes in light of the continued denial of the rights and inherent dignity of Palestinian workers, who are systematically subjected to Israel’s discriminatory policies and practices of racial discrimination and apartheid,deprived of their fundamental rights to health, work, and to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing. To date, Israel, the occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, has failed to test and ensure the treatment of Palestinians labourers working in Israel prior to their return to the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel has also obstructed measures taken by the Palestinian Authority to contain and mitigate the devastating effects of COVID-19, and failed to take measures to curb the spread of the pandemic in the occupied Palestinian territory.
While UN human rights experts have highlighted the need to fulfil the right to health of everyone without discrimination, particularly during COVID-19, Israel has continued to exploit Palestinians for cheap labour, while failing to take measures to ensure the protection of workers, their families, and their communities from the detrimental impacts of the pandemic. Instead, the vulnerabilities of workers have been further exacerbated by Israel’s failure to test and treat Palestinians working in Israel and to uphold their right to health when crossing from and to the occupied Palestinian territory, thereby contributing to the stigmatisation and dehumanisation of Palestinian workers and their families during COVID-19.
Accordingly, the organisations urged the UN Special Procedures to intervene to guarantee the health and safety of Palestinian workers during the pandemic, and in particular, to:
- Publicly call on Israel, the occupying power, to uphold the rights and dignity of Palestinian workers by ensuring their occupational health and safety, just and favourable conditions of work, including minimum wage, and eliminating discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, in accordance with the standards set by the International Labour Organization (ILO);
- Issue a statement calling on the Israeli occupying authorities to ensure the protection of all Palestinian workers from the effects of COVID-19, to fulfil their right to health without discrimination, to test and treat workers who are ill, and to take all necessary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic amongst Palestinian workers, their families, and communities;
- Further demand that Israel, the occupying power, cease impeding Palestinian prevention and mitigation efforts and test all Palestinian workers returning to the occupied Palestinian territory to prevent an uncontrolled spread of the pandemic;
- Urge Israel, the occupying power, to uphold the right of Palestinian workers to the underlying determinants of health and well-being, including adequate housing, water, and sanitation, as essential to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 amongst workers;
- Call on Israel, the occupying power, to uphold its obligation to adequately coordinate and cooperate with the Palestinian Authority in upholding the health, safety, dignity, and well-being of Palestinian workers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To read the urgent appeal sent on 14 April 2020 to the UN Special Procedures by a Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organisations, see here.