(photo credit: AP)
Israel's efforts to prevent international human trafficking were commended by the US State Department Tuesday in its 2007 annual Trafficking in Person's Report (TIP).
However, the report, which is the most comprehensive worldwide study on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking, noted that the Israeli government still "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking."
Israel's status on the TIP report improved slightly, to Tier 2, compared to last year, where it was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, one level before US sanctions are imposed. The list is divided into four sections, Tier 1 being those countries who are most compliant and Tier 3 those who are the least.
"This year, the government passed crucial amendments to its anti-trafficking law that comprehensively prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, including involuntary servitude and slavery," highlighted the report, which used local non-government organizations and official sources of information to study the period April 2006 through March 2007.
"In addition, the government extended legal assistance to victims of trafficking for involuntary servitude, and passed a national action plan to combat trafficking for forced labor."
"We were not surprised by this improvement in Israel's standing," commented Yahel Ash Kurlander, spokeswoman for Isha L'Isha Haifa Feminist Center, an NGO that is extremely active in combating human trafficking in Israel and contributed to the TIP report. "We are happy that Israel has made strides in legislation and protection for people traded in this way, however the report still shows us that we have a long way to go."
The government's failure to provide forced labor victims with adequate protection services - such as shelter, medical, and psychological aid - and lack of any criminal prosecutions under its new law for labor trafficking crimes were among the criticisms of Israel.
Israel is a destination country for low-skilled workers from the People's Republic of China, Romania, Jordan, Turkey, Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India, who migrate voluntarily for contract labor in the construction, agriculture, and health care industries.
It is also a destination country for women trafficked from Eastern Europe - primarily Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Russia - for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
According to NGOs operating in Israel, there are between 16,000 and 20,000 foreign workers who face involuntary servitude in Israel. There are also 1,000-3,000 women who were brought to Israel for sexual exploitation.