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Passover 2016 – Substantial Decline in Response of Israeli Authorities to Victims of Trafficking and Slavery

The 2016 Annual Trafficking Report from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, released for Passover, reports on 28 individual victims of trafficking and slavery who were identified by the NGO, as well the resumption of trafficking of women from Eastern Europe. The report reveals that during the past year there has been a serious setback in the state’s response to the trafficking of women, allowing the trend to expand and grow.

During 2015, there was an increase in the number of women from Eastern Europe who came to Israel with a tourist visa- being put to work in the sex industry – According to the HRM, 11 women were arrested on suspicion that they were working in prostitution on a tourist visa. Held in Givon prison, they were deported quickly by authorities. The Department of Immigration never coordinated with the police or examined the circumstances under which they arrived in Israel. Although the Judges of the Administrative Tribunals sharply criticize the lack of coordination, and despite repeated requests by the HRM to the relevant officials, there has been no movement on this issue or increased coordination. During the last decade, Israel has tried combating human trafficking by legislation and enforcement. These subsequent laws lead to Israel’s Tier-1 ranking on the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. However, recently the visa policies of Israel changed, allowing visa-free travel to citizens of Ukraine and Moldova. This action consequently made trafficking much easier, while monitoring of the trade all that more difficult.

80% of TIP victims among asylum-seekers were identified by human rights organizations, 50% of them by the HRM. Less than one-fifth were identified by the relevant authorities- During 2015, the HRM found 28 asylum-seekers who were trafficked to Israel after surviving slavery and torture in Bedouin torture camps in the Sinai. Many of these TIP victims were found in Israeli detention centers. 19 survivors (13 men and 6 women) who the Hotline submitted to the appropriate authorities have been recognized as TIP victims by the state. As a result, four of them were released from Saharonim Prison. Victims of trafficking are given a year of shelter rehabilitation, during which they have access to health care and welfare, and are exempt from detention at Holot. Five cases have been dismissed and four are awaiting decisions.

Reut Michaeli, Executive Director of the HRM: “The data indicates that the perception of trafficking as something that has been eradicated in Israel has prevented authorities from taking action against the new face of this phenomenon. The characterization of women working in prostitutions as offenders who have to be deported, and not as survivors who need rehabilitation, is problematic, and reminiscent of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, a period when the trafficking of women in Israel was at its peak. Deportation of victims eliminates the only possibility of finding evidence against traffickers and addressing the phenomenon in its current form. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that the trend is growing. Similarly, lack of mechanisms to identify victims of trafficking and slavery among asylum-seekers and Migrant workers leaves many TIP victims unrecognized and untreated, which are rights afforded to them by Israeli law”.

Read the full report