A young Moldovan woman trafficked to Israel to work in the sex slave trade has been battling the Interior Ministry for more than five years in an attempt to win citizenship instead of being deported back to the country where she was taken as a teenager by pimps, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
V., who was 14 years old when she was kidnapped by a gang of men on her way home from school, was brought here illegally and forced to perform sexual acts on men until she managed to escape her captors by jumping from a window.
Today aged 23, V. has spent most of her formative years in Israel, speaks fluent Hebrew and is even enrolled in a local college. Her pro-bono lawyer, Yossi Ashkenazi, from the well-known Tel Aviv law firm of Herzog, Fox and Neeman, argues that she should be granted citizenship on a humanitarian basis.
Presenting her case to the Knesset Sub-Committee on Trafficking in Women on Wednesday, Ashkenazi said this was one of the most extreme cases of human trafficking in Israel and that after five years of petitioning the Interior Ministry to allow the woman to stay here, the state had still made no clear decision.
"From 2005 until now this woman has no official status in Israel," said Ashkenazi. "They want to deport her but even the police here recommend not sending her back to Moldova."
"We now know that it was her father who sold her to these people. He is involved in criminal activity in Moldova and if she returns there he'll find her," explained Leah Gruenpeter-Gold, founder and chairwoman of the non-profit Trafficking Awareness Center (Machon Toda'ah) in Tel Aviv, which has been actively helping V. in her bid to stay in the country.
According to Gruenpeter-Gold, V. is not in any fit mental state to be interviewed by the media.
"She suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder caused by her ordeal; she just can't talk about what she went through," she exclaimed, adding that clues to her new identity and current whereabouts could also not be disclosed.
"The men that brought her here were caught and imprisoned, but now, after four years, they are out of jail and are walking around free," said Gruenpeter-Gold, who was also present at the Knesset discussion on Wednesday. "I truly compare her experiences to what the Jews went through in the Holocaust, it's simply awful and the state needs to show her compassion."
At the Knesset hearing, Ashkenazi described how the young girl was sold on the black market to a local pimp who used her for sex. Even though she was only held prisoner by the man for a year, she fell pregnant twice and one of the times her captor's violent physical abuse caused her to lose the fetus.
The Interior Ministry's spokeswoman did not immediately respond on Thursday.