Child labor concerns as Palestinian boys sell discarded iron

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Palestinian children are earning extra income for their families by searching for discarded iron objects in a rubbish tip in the West Bank town of Jericho.

One young boy, Muhammad Yousef, explains that he and his friends sell the iron objects they find in the rubbish tip to an iron merchant who makes his living by supplying metal to a local recycling factory.

“Me and my friends come after school to collect iron and then we sell it to the driver of the vehicle who collects iron,” Yousef said.

Another young boy, Ibrahim Ahmed, said that during term time the boys go to the rubbish tip after school. During summer holidays they get up especially early to meet their friends there.

“We used to come here, me and my friends, after school to collect iron and sell it to help our families. Now when we are off from school, we get up early in the morning to collect iron and sell it because of the hard situation,” Ibrahim Ahmed said.

Most of the children earn between 20 and 50 New Israeli Shekels (NIS) per day ($5 to $12.5).

A quarter of the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is living below the poverty line.

A Palestinian Authority official, the director of Social Affairs in Jericho Ghassan al-Shimwali, said that in the current difficult economic climate labor laws which forbid the employment of children under the age of 15 were being flouted.

He said there is a growing trend among children throughout the Palestinian territories to earn money to help support their families, and the practice was being tolerated by parents.

“It can now be seen as a new trend. So no one says it is not allowed. One child copies another child. That is allowed and they can get wages and they can buy what they want,” al-Shimwali said.

Another Palestinian Authority official, the head of the Directorate of Social Affairs children's department Tahani Barahma, said Palestinian social affairs organizations are working to put an end to child labor with the support of the Palestinian police. She said social workers and police officers visit families which may be violating child labor laws to try to put an end to the practice.

“We produce kids’ awareness programs through the education ministry.

Also, a representative of the ministry of social affairs visits the house and meets the father and mother. At the same time, also police get involved and question the parents and get the father’s signature forbidding his child to work,” said Barahma.

Last year a report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said around 25.8 percent of Palestinians suffered from poverty. Around 9.62 percent of West Bank children and 3.10 percent in Gaza Strip children are in the labor market.