Israeli settlement farms in the West Bank are fuelling child labour as children as young as 11 are employed to work in very hazardous conditions and for little money, a report has warned.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the settlements are allocated to Palestinians after Israel unlawfully occupies Palestinian territory. This worsens poverty rates among the Palestinian community and, as a result, children drop out of school and start working as "they feel they have no alternatives."
In its latest report, "Ripe for Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank", the group warned that the working conditions of the children are in breach of both Israeli labour laws and international standards, in particular of the Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949 to define civilian protection in war zones.
According to section three of the convention: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" and "shall make arrangements for the maintenance and education of children who are orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of the war and who cannot be adequately cared for by a near relative or friend."
HRW interviewed 38 children and 12 adults employed in several settlement farms. The interviewees said that children - who grow, harvest and pack agricultural produce mainly for export - carry heavy loads, are exposed to pesticides, and sometimes have to pay for medical care for work-related injuries.
Some of the children said they sometimes feel dizzy during work and some of them had passed out while working during summer, when temperatures reach 40C. Other children said they had experienced vomiting, breathing difficulties, sore eyes, and skin rashes after spraying or being exposed to pesticides.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director, said: "Israel's settlements are profiting from rights abuses against Palestinian children. Other countries and businesses should not benefit from or support them."