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Some 25 Chinese laborers, who turned up at the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry yesterday to complain that they had not received their wages for over two months, found themselves surrounded by police and threatened with deportation.

One of the laborers claimed he was beaten and required hospital treatment.

The laborers, who are legally employed by Nassak Building and Development in Karkur, filed a complaint on November 28, 2002, that they had not been paid their wages.

The company claimed that the manpower agency that brought the laborers to Israel was responsible for the payment. The ministry clarified to the agency that it was responsible for payment, but the agency asked to be given until mid-February to make the payment.

"What are they supposed to do until then, to continue working without pay? If they leave and go and work for someone else, they will be arrested and deported," protested Hannah Zohar of the Kav Le'oved hotline, which promotes rights for foreign workers.

Police were called to the scene after the laborers refused to leave the building. They finally agreed to vacate the premises after a senior official from the Chinese embassy brokered an agreement that a representative of the building company would be called in today for arbitration with the laborers.