Israeli Building Owner Creates a Fire Hazard Leading to Death of 2 Workers

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Nov 21 2009

Two days, a fire in an apartment building in Tel Aviv, which housed mostly migrant workers, resulted in the death of two people and injury of 12 others. The victims, a man and a woman in their thirties, are probably workers from Liberia. The fire started around 2:00 AM and spread all across the building. An investigative team from the Tel Aviv Municipality interviewed the tenants of the building who described their horrible living conditions. In order to save on rent (which is very expensive in Tel Aviv), the workers stayed in overcrowded rooms with leaky roofs. The electrical connections were all unsafe, and the owner of the building had closed off all the fire escapes so he can build more apartments.

Ali, a worker from Ghana who lived in the building said that the "the owner of the house doesn't care if the building collapses... We are nothing to him, he knows that everyone who lives in the building is a foreign worker, and they are nothing... This place is a mess. There's no warm water. When I tell him [the owner] he says that I can leave". Neighbors of that building said that the people lived in the building "like cockroaches" in horrible conditions, simply because the owner of the building wanted to make more money. The Tel Aviv Municipality says that it will probably press charges against the owner of the house for creating a "human pen" by dividing the building into too many apartments each with numerous tenants. This overcrowding resulted in the death of the workers who got trapped while trying to escape.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East