U.S. report: Israel punishes trafficking victims for migration violations

For the 7th year in a row Israel has received Tier 1 status.

A boy takes part in a protest against the Israeli government's plan to deport African migrants, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 24, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)
A boy takes part in a protest against the Israeli government's plan to deport African migrants, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 24, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)
Though the Israeli government continues to demonstrate “serious and sustained efforts” for the elimination of human trafficking, it must take better care of victims among the irregular African migrant population, according to the annual US State Department Trafficking in Persons report.
For the 7th year in a row Israel has received Tier 1 status, which does not mean that it has no human trafficking problem, but that the government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.
Developed countries tend to have First Tier ranking, while developing and underdeveloped countries are mostly found in Tier 2 and Tier 3.
Israel abandons plan to forcibly deport African migrants, April 24, 2018 (Reuters)

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2011 was the last time Israel received Second Tier ranking, which means the government had not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards.
This year’s report praised Israel for improving victim identification procedures and identifying an increased number of victims.
“It continued to operate shelters and other facilities that provided victims a wide variety of immediate and longterm care and rehabilitative services, and it referred all identified victims to care,” the reports reads. It also notes that the government continued to prosecute and convict sex trafficking offenders, and prosecuted an increased number of perpetrators in comparison to the previous reporting period.
However, the reports says: “Although the government met the minimum standards, it convicted a significantly lower number of sex trafficking offenders than in the previous reporting period, and it continued to issue weak sentences that were inconsistent with the seriousness of the crime. It also did not prosecute or convict any forced labor perpetrators.”
It also states that despite improvements to victim identification procedures, some victims referred by NGOs did not receive appropriate protection services.
Eritrean and Sudanese migrants, which comprise the majority of the country’s irregular migrants, are highly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking in Israel, the report notes.
Many of these migrants were kidnapped in the Sinai and subjected to severe abuse, including forced labor and sex trafficking, at the hands of criminal groups in the Sinai before reaching Israel. Thousands of African migrants crossed the border into Israel before 2013, when Israel built a fence to stop the influx.
“While the government identified and provided some care to trafficking victims among the irregular African migrant population, because of inadequate screening procedures it continued to punish victims among this population for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as immigration violations,” the State Department said. “The government also implemented policies that subjected potential trafficking victims among this population to deportation.”
The report recommends that Israel proactively screen irregular migrants, particularly those who endured abuses in Sinai, to ensure trafficking victims among this population are not penalized, including by detention and summoning to detention, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
It also highlights the need for Israel to impose stricter sentences on convicted traffickers, consistent with the seriousness of the crime.
Other recommendations include that Israeli authorities improve the process to officially recognize identified trafficking victims, including victims referred by NGOs, to allow for quicker access to protection services; increase methods of evaluating effectiveness of training for law enforcement, including police and prison officials, in victim identification, and enforcement of labor and sex trafficking laws; continue to provide protection for all trafficking victims, including shelter and medical and psychosocial treatment; increase and train the number of labor inspectors, social workers and interpreters in the agricultural, construction and caregiving sectors; and increase enforcement of foreign worker labor rights.
Israel’s is categorized by the State Department as a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, as well as a source country for men, women, and to a lesser extent children, subjected to sex trafficking within Israel.