Ramallah: The Palestinian National Authority’s inability to control the flow of Palestinian child labour into Israel and its colonies is a matter of fundemental concern for the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs, a senior official has said.

Palestinian children below the age of 15 have been working in Jewish colonies, mainly south of Nablus, Tubas and in the Jordan Valley areas, and a number of other children are smuggled into Israel to beg and work in the grug trade, said Raed Nazzal, head of the Childhood Department at the ministry, in an interview with Gulf News.

“Childhood related laws and regulations are clearly known by the Israelis, but they do not pay them any kind of attention and recruit Palestinian children below the legal age for work in their farms,” he said. “The Israelis aim at taking advantage of the Palestinian children. They do not care much about the Palestinian child who quits school to join the Israeli farms for work,” he said.

Nazzal said that the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs has already dedicated the year 2013 to address the work of Palestinian children below the legal working age. “We will address the issue of the work of the Palestinian children with the Israelis via the Palestinian-Israeli Civil Affairs Liaison Coordination Office to come up with strict regulations to be implemented on Israeli employers,” he said. “We however know that the Israelis might not be helpful in this issue and may ignore our demands.”

Last year, the ministry inspectors found 300 children under the legal working age over in the West Bank. “We have forced their families and employers to sign pledges banning recruitment of minor children,” he said.

As per the Palestinian law, children from the age group 15-18 years old can work if they are provided the proper safety measures. “Below the age of 15 years old, children are strictly banned from work and once found, their families and guardians are forced to sign pledges to spare their children the work and give them access to schools and learning,” he said.

Hitting and forcing children to quit school is not uncommon and is often seen as a parental right, and the ministry is conducting major campaigns to end this practice. “There should be a serious change in the Palestinian society and its culture in this regard,” he said.

Illegal contractors are smuggling Palestinian children inside Israel to become beggars and to work in drugs and this problem clearly appears in Hebron. “Those children spend months inside Israel and later they are handed over to the Israeli authorities who bring them to the Israeli checkpoints to be later handed to the Palestinian side,” he said.

“The ministry is concerned about the increasing number of Palestinian children smuggled into Israel,” he warned, adding that the ministry is currently addressing this problem with its partners including the Palestinian Police, Public Prosecution, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Education