Israel's human trafficking rating has not improved

State Department to issue report later Wednesday; Gal-On bill would ban sex-industry advertising.

Prostitute 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Prostitute 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
No significant change is expected in the evaluation of Israel in the US State Department's 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report, due to be released on Wednesday, according to local nongovernment anti-trafficking activists. Israel was listed as a 'Tier 2' country and its efforts to prevent international human trafficking were noted in last year's annual report, which is the most comprehensive worldwide study on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. However, Israel was still labeled as not "fully complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking." While the Jewish state's status will most likely not regress to the lower placement of previous years - in 2006 Israel appeared on the Tier 2 Watch List, one level before the US would impose sanctions, local anti-trafficking group Isha L'Isha-Haifa Feminist Center said Israel still has a long way to go to reach the desired Tier 1. "Israel's path to the top is blocked by the inactivity of the Interior Ministry and its humiliating treatment of victims who have managed to escape the cycle of human trafficking," Rita Chaikin, anti-trafficking project coordinator at Isha L'Isha-Haifa Feminist Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "The Interior Ministry continues to create problems by refusing to provide female victims of trafficking with the appropriate shelter," she said, adding that the ministry decides whether victims are eligible to enter the state shelters, which provide them with crucial rehabilitation services and protection from those who facilitate trafficking rings. Chaikin said most of the women brought here to work in the sex industry were not Israeli citizens and therefore were not eligible for services such as medical insurance. They should be given visas and, in some cases, citizenship, she said. Some of these women give birth in Israel, and even they are not provided with visas, she said. A spokeswoman said the Interior Ministry had clear regulations and procedures on how to deal with women who had escaped from trafficking operations, which are published on its Web site. Yahel Ash Kurlander, Isha L'Isha's spokeswoman, said Israel would most likely remain in the same category as last year due to the efforts of individuals such as the government appointed coordinator in the battle against trafficking, Rachel Gershoni, and MK Zehava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Knesset Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women. On Tuesday, Gal-On's committee met to discuss the status of proposed legislation aimed at curtailing the 'virtual sex industry,' which in many cases advertises prostitution services from women who have been trafficked to Israel. The bill would ban all media, including promotional pamphlets and 'business cards,' from advertising prostitution services and people with access to the sex industry.