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Israel has reached advanced negotiations with the International Organization for Migration and with Bangkok officials about bringing in workers for agriculture, without going through employment agencies. Reaching an official agreement would dramatically improve the rights of foreign agricultural workers in Israel, since the IOM would be responsible for their transport, rather than private companies or other brokers.

The talks on Israel's behalf are being handled by a team of officials from a number of bodies: the Bank of Israel, the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. Thailand's minister of labor is scheduled to visit Israel at the end of this week for more talks.

The importance of the agreement is that the IOM is committed to protecting the workers' rights and assuring that their migration is handled humanely. The organization charges each worker less than $1,000, while brokers bringing workers to Israel may charge ten times as much.

The high fees workers pay turns them into virtual captives of the employers or brokers until they've paid in full. The agreement with the IOM and its lower fees would resolve that problem entirely.