'Israel among worst human traffickers'

Named in UN's list of 'top 10' destinations for forced labor, sexual slavery.

A report released this week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has cited Israel as among the top destinations in the trafficking of human beings, either for sexual exploitation or forced labor. Entitled "Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns," the report claims that, "virtually every country in the world is affected by the crime of human trafficking." However, Israel, along with nine countries, was named as the worst offenders of illegal trade in human beings. "The fact that this form of slavery still exists in the 21st century shames us all," announced UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa on the organization's Web site. "Governments need to get serious about identifying the full extent of the problem so they can get serious about eliminating it." In Israel, Haifa feminist center Isha L'Isha, one of the human rights organizations active in the fight against the trafficking of women, welcomed the report's findings and was hopeful that it would force the government and relevant authorities to take more action against this crime. Tal Eisenberg, the organization's legal advisor and coordinator for the center's Fighting Against Trafficking in Women project told The Jerusalem Post, "It is excellent that the United Nations has recognized that there is such a problem in Israel. I hope that we can learn from the report and that the government will now take more notice of the problem." She said that many countries did not even know that trafficking takes place within their borders and that Israeli rights organizations had made great progress in combating the problem. Executive Director of Amnesty International Israel, Amnon Vidan said that the Israeli authorities had to deal with the problem before it happened, by stopping the transit of women across the border with Egypt. The UNODC report identified 127 countries of origin, 98 transit countries and 137 destination countries. It stated that the vast majority of human trafficking was in women and was for the purpose of sexual exploitation, with roughly 20 percent of the trade being in forced labor. The report, which was based on 113 individual sources such as government documents, research by national criminal justice organizations, Interpol, research institutes and news agencies, suggested that, "the best way of addressing the demand side of trafficking human beings is to demolish the markets generating profits to the criminals. This would require identification of traffickers in order to be able to investigate trafficking cases, and prosecute and convict offenders. Unfortunately, relatively few cases are prosecuted successfully resulting in a very small number of convictions."