Human trafficking in Israel
The U.S. State Department's "Trafficking in Persons Report, 2012" and "Trafficking in Persons Report, 2013" raised Israel's rank to Tier 1 after having ranked Israel Tier 2 between 2007 and 2011. (A Tier 1 ranking is the highest rating given to a government that "has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem." The State Department reports: "The Government of Israel continued to improve its strong protection of trafficking victims over the reporting period.") The State of Israel ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children on 23 Jul 2008 .
Human trafficking in Israel includes the trafficking of men and women into the country for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Low-skilled workers from China, Romania, Africa, Turkey, Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India migrate voluntarily for contract labor in the construction, agriculture, and health care industries. Some, however, subsequently face conditions of forced labor, such as unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical intimidation. Many labor recruitment agencies in source countries and in Israel require workers to pay recruitment fees ranging from $1,000 to $10,000—a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to trafficking once in Israel, and in some cases, situations of debt bondage. Israel was also a destination country for women trafficked from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Belarus, China, South Korea and possibly the Philippines for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In 2008, NGO had noted an increase in the internal trafficking of Israeli women for commercial sexual exploitation, and reported new instances of trafficking of Israeli women abroad to Canada, Ireland, and England. African asylum seekers entering Israel illegally are also vulnerable to trafficking for forced labor or prostitution. Large numbers of Eritreans had been trafficked into Israel.
In 2007, the government increased the number of convictions for sex trafficking offenses, and conducted a campaign to prevent forced labor. Israel also continues to provide victims of sex trafficking with shelter, legal aid and protection assistance. NGOs claim that "the shelters are insufficient to treat the scale of trafficking victims who were not officially identified in Israel, particularly among migrants and asylum seekers arriving from the Sinai". In 2012 it was reported that "the number of women affected continues to decline since the passage and implementation of Israel’s 2006 anti-trafficking law."
The construction of the 245 mile Israel–Egypt barrier in 2013, is credited with further eliminating human trafficking into Israel, by closing the primary route by which trafficking of people into Israel had occurred.
The Government of Israel has made uneven progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenses. Israel prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through its Anti-Trafficking Law that came into force on October 29, 2006, which prescribes penalties of up to 16 years' imprisonment for sex trafficking of an adult, up to 20 years' imprisonment for sex trafficking of a minor, up to 16 years' imprisonment for slavery, and up to 7 years' imprisonment for forced labor. These penalties are commensurate with those for other grave crimes, such as rape. In 2007, the government convicted 38 individuals for sex trafficking—four more than in 2006—with sentences ranging from six months to 15 years' imprisonment and fines.
In addition, 16 prosecutions for sex trafficking were in process as of 2008, and another 15 cases were pending appeal. Israel made some efforts to investigate and punish acts of involuntary servitude; in 2007, the government prepared three indictments for forced labor and one indictment for slavery. In addition, three criminal cases of fraud/deceit of foreign workers involving five defendants were pending prosecution or appeal as of 2008. Israel reported no prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of government officials complicit in trafficking in 2007.
In Feb 2013 the newspaper Haaretz successfully sued the Tel Aviv District Court to reveal the name of a major sex trafficker who became a police informer, David Digmi.
The Government of Israel has improved its protection of trafficking victims, but the protection of victims of forced labor remained relatively weak. The government operates a shelter largely for victims of sex trafficking with the support of a local NGO. Notably, though Israel lacks a specific shelter for victims of labor trafficking, government authorities sometimes refer victims of forced labor to the shelter for sex trafficking. Victims in this shelter receive medical treatment, psychiatric and social services, stipends, and temporary residency and work permits.
The government mandates legal aid to all trafficking victims and employs formal procedures to identify victims of sex trafficking and refer them to a shelter. Foreign workers who file complaints regarding criminal offenses are not arrested, are generally placed in alternative employment, and are granted immigration relief. Victims of trafficking receive legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution, including the issuance of temporary visa extensions.
The government encourages victims of sex trafficking to assist in investigations against their traffickers, but it does not actively encourage victims of forced labor to do the same. Victims not housed in the government shelter, including victims of internal trafficking, do not receive the same level of protection services from the government as victims located in shelters.
Israel has made efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The Immigration Police has run a radio campaign warning employers not to exploit migrant workers. The Ministry of Education and the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women has also conducted awareness campaigns in the school system that included seminars for administrators and teachers on sex trafficking. This program focused on the role of the school system in reducing demand for commercial sexual services.
The construction of the Israel–Egypt barrier in 2013, is credited with a further eliminating human trafficking into Israel, by closing the primary route by which Bedouin smugglers trafficked people into Israel.
- "Trafficking in Persons Report 2012.. U.S. Department of State (June 2012) p.194.
- "Trafficking in Persons Report 2012.. U.S. Department of State (June 2012) p.38.
-  United Nations Treaty Collection. "Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children... Status of ratification of the SEM and SSA countries"
- "Israel". Trafficking in Persons Report 2008. U.S. Department of State (June 4, 2008). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Refugees and the Rashaida: human smuggling and trafficking from Eritrea to Sudan and Egypt NEW ISSUES IN REFUGEE RESEARCH, Research Paper No. 254
- "Trafficking in Persons Report 2012.. U.S. Department of State (June 2012) p.195.
- United States Department of State, 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report - Israel, 19 June 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51c2f3b424.html [accessed 21 June 2014]
- Kubovich, Yaniv (2013-02-05). "Biggest trafficker of women in Israeli history finally exposed - National Israel News". Haaretz. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
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- Task Force on Human Trafficking. (current Israeli NGO, English page, visited Mar 2013)
- Israel. Ministry of Public Security (Police), Human Trafficking, 8 Jan 2012
- Knesset Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the Trafficking in Women, report summary (2004)
- BBC News story on human-trafficking problem in Israel (2007)