Repatriation centre closed

Repatriation centre closed

Most Thai workers in Israel choose to stay

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it remains committed to facilitating the repatriation of Thai citizens from Israel, following news that over 20,000 Thai workers in the country have chosen to stay despite the escalating conflict.

According to official figures, there were about 30,000 Thai workers in Israel before the Oct 7 cross-border raids by Hamas forces.

The number of Thai workers seeking repatriation from Israel has dramatically dropped in recent days, prompting the closure of the coordination centre set up at the Royal Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The last few workers who had registered for repatriation arrived in Thailand on Sunday.

Nine out of the 14 officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who were attached to the centre have also been recalled home.

They were welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara and permanent secretary of foreign affairs Sarun Charoensuwan.

Mr Parnpree thanked them for their dedication to the mission during the crisis.

"I wanted to meet the people who made sacrifices to bring us updates on the situation," he said.

Mr Parnpree himself visited Qatar and Egypt from Oct 30 to Nov 2 to find ways to free Thai citizens who were taken as hostages by Hamas.

He met the prime minister of Qatar, as well as the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran -- who was also visiting Qatar -- and Egypt's foreign affairs minister.

Pongsathorn Chutha­samit, director of the Reception Division, Department of Protocol, who was among those recalled from Tel Aviv, said he had to coordinate with Israeli authorities to bring Thai workers out of the danger zone and to the nearest evacuation centre.

While most of the team have returned to Bangkok, five officers remained in Israel to help with the repatriation of Thai hostages once they are released by their captors, he said.

In total, 24 Thai citizens are currently being held hostage by Hamas. Nineteen Thais have been injured in the conflict to date, while the death toll climbed to 34.

According to Mr Pongsathorn, the officials are also ready to help the 20,000-plus workers who have chosen to stay in Israel should the need arise.

He assured that the embassy remains ready to offer assistance despite the closure of the coordination centre.

Noraset Srimayok, a junior diplomat attached to the Department of South Asia, Middle East and African Affairs, said he was glad that he could facilitate the return of these workers. He called assisting the repatriation effort a "unique" experience.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Monday all concerned parties are trying their best to negotiate the release of Thai hostages.

He said he had talked to the chief of the defence forces, Songwit Noonpakdi, who said he had received reports indicating the Thai hostages were well and alive.

"They're waiting for the fighting to subside. A ceasefire, even for just a day or two, will provide a window for bringing the hostages out," he said.

Labour Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said on Monday the ministry has agreed to provide an extra 50,000 baht in compensation to the repatriated Thai workers in addition to the 15,000 baht they will receive from the welfare fund for overseas workers.

The ministry has asked the Budget Bureau to earmark the funds from the central budget, and a response from the bureau is expected sometime on Tuesday.

"This is in addition to the proposed low-interest loan of up to 150,000 baht to each Thai worker who returned from Israel so they can clear any debts owed to job brokers or use the money to pursue other careers," he said.

He urged Thai workers who chose to remain in Israel to stay in contact with the labour attache in case they came under threat.

Do you like the content of this article?