A motion for the approval of a class action lawsuit was filed in the Israeli Central District Court for the aggregate sum of over 100,000,000 NIS against Agrostudies, a company controlled by Granot, Israel’s largest industrial agricultural corporation. The motion, which alleges widespread fraud of foreign students and the Israeli authorities, was filed by Kav LaOved – Worker’s Hotline on behalf of a Senegalese citizen, and is represented by Yonatan Berman of the Edelstein Berman & Company Law Offices.
At the core of the allegation is the claim that Agrostudies marketed its agricultural “work study” program fraudulently to citizens of various countries, collecting large sums of money from students who were brought to Israel to perform manual labor in agricultural fields across the country. This practice contradicts an agreement between Israel and Thailand regarding the recruitment of migrant workers in the Israeli agricultural sector. Therefore, it is claimed that the “work-study program” was established in order to bypass the restrictions regarding the number of workers legally authorized to work in the sector.
In the past few years, there have been numerous governmental policies passed limiting the number of migrant workers employed in agriculture and placing restrictions on brokerage fees. This issue was brought up in the specific motion which states that: “In order to avoid the cap on the number of migrant workers allowed to work in Israel, Granot, the largest agricultural corporation in Israel, which incorporates dozens of kibbutzim and moshavim, presents itself as an entity named Agrostudies. Agrostudies presents itself as an academic institution while it is nothing but a manpower agency that provides cheap labor to the agricultural sector in Israel. They earn millions of shekels in profits by charging ‘tuition fees’ from students and other fees charged to the farmers. This is nothing but a brokerage fee, which is illegal by law.”
The motion maintains that “starting in 2008, Agrostudies has ‘imported’ 4,536 people from a number of countries in Africa and South East Asia. This year (2015), 1,412 ‘students’ are in Israel participating in the Agrostudies program. Every year, the number of students who fall victim to this scam grows. The goal of the class action suit is to provide compensation to the thousands of participants who paid substantial fees relative to the purchasing power parity in their home countries for an ‘educational program’ that never took place. The defendants should be required to return the payments that have unjustifiably benefited them at the expense of the students and farmers.”