Twelve Israelis are being held in the Turks and Caicos Island chain in the Caribbean by 300 Chinese workers, Ynet learned Thursday.
The Israelis, who are being held on West Caicos, were on the islands working for Ashtrom Engineering and Construction, an Israeli building company responsible for a large tourist project.
An Israeli working in the area told Ynet that the Israelis were taken hostage after the project was canceled, due to bank collapse. The Chinese workers, who were informed they would be deported, are holding the Israelis for ransom to pay back the cost of their trip from China to the Caribbean, as well as to cover the equivalent of wages.
West Caicos, an isolated island accessible only via a 40-minute boat ride from the central island in the archipelago, has no police or security forces, making it easy for the Chinese workers, who have taken control of the single marina, to hold the Israelis against their will.
The Israeli women who were present on the island were smuggled out using a small boat. In the meantime, the Chinese workers appear to be encircling the quarters of the Israeli employees.
'Closing in on us'Moti, one of the Israeli project managers, told Ynet that "they closed off the island on all sides and are closing in on us. Because of the collapse of US banks that were invested in the project, it was frozen... We've been waiting for three weeks, on hold."
"We (the Israeli contracting company) have been working on it for almost a year – building a hotel, luxury homes, staff quarters, a spa, restaurants, an airport, a port and a power station," he said.
Marina where Israelis are being held
According to Moti, every Chinese employee invested $15,000 in order to take part in the work. When the project went under, the Israelis offered the Chinese their salary and travel fare back to China, but the workers are also requesting a return of their original $15,000 fee.
"The workers have closed the port and aren't letting anyone out. They're not being violent at this time, but they situation is getting worse. They've closed down the kitchen because supplies aren't getting in," he said.
"The senior management is on the island of Crovidenciaoes and is aware of the situation, but there's no point in them coming here because they can't get in. But the situation can get worse – they're surrounding our living quarters and not letting us leave," he said.
"We're in touch with our families in Israel (via personal telephones) and they are worried. We are in touch with the Foreign Ministry, asking them to help resolve the issue and get us out of here," he said.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "the Chinese have close off the island prior to receiving the money…. We are dealing with the issue via the Israeli ambassador in the Dominican Republic. We are in preliminary stages of compromise."