Hotline assails police over human trafficking

Local women have replaced immigrants as main victims, report says.

human trafficking 88 (photo credit: )
human trafficking 88
(photo credit: )
Law enforcement authorities are not adequately dealing with changing patterns of human trafficking and the increase in trafficking of Israeli women, according to a report by Hotline for Migrant Workers released on Monday. "For this report, we wanted to prove that this issue is a much wider phenomenon," Naomi Levenkron, head of the trafficking department at Hotline, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "It's not only prostitution, but also in the form of trafficking [in] drugs, as well as domestic slavery - such as maids or people working in agriculture." The Hotline believes human trafficking has increased nationally, she said. The trend cannot be scientifically calculated and is referred to as a hidden population, defined as certain groups that exist in society but cannot be traced. "You just have to look at the field and you can see the growth," Levenkron said. "Look at the brothels and you will understand." Previously, most of the trafficking targeted immigrants from the former Soviet Union, but now targets mostly Israeli women, she said. The Hotline for Migrant Workers was created to assist foreign workers in Israel, Levenkron said, but since there was no other body that dealt with trafficking of Israeli workers, her organization had taken up the cause. Despite a 2006 law prohibiting human trafficking, law enforcement agencies are still not informed and prepared enough to deal with the new pattern of targeting poor Israeli women, many of whom are drug addicts, according to the report. "There is a difference between the law that covers all types of trafficking and how the law is enforced on the street," Levenkron said. The report revealed that while the law allows convicted traffickers to be jailed for up to 16 years, the average sentence is much lower - 2.8 years. Also, many cases are not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. The Israel Police were not available for comment. "I hope that the police will finally learn how to locate these [traffickers]," Levenkron said. "It's all about wanting to change things. It's only the simple wish that the police will try to do something. They can change they situation, but they just don't feel like doing it." The report also criticized the Immigration Administration for not investigating conditions for migrant workers. "It's a joke that the same body that is supposed to kick out immigrants is also supposed to investigate crimes against them," Levenkron said. Orit Freidman, a spokesperson for the Immigration Administration, denied the conclusion reached by the report, saying the administration actively investigates trafficking. "The problem is not the trafficking itself, but mostly the conditions under which it is done," said Prof. Giora Rahav, of Tel Aviv University's sociology department. "The main problem is that at least some of the subjects being transferred this way are held in places against their will or their employer takes hold of their passport so they are bound to the employer," he said. The government rulings in Israel initially designed to curb the inflow of foreign workers actually resulted in binding those trafficked to specific employers, Rahav said, adding that this is currently the most prevalent scenario throughout the country.