Knesset c'tee worried by disbandment of Sa'ar police unit

Members of panel against trafficking women say decision to shut the Sa'ar branch of the national 433 Unit harms efforts against human trafficking.

police arrest handcuffs suspect cops criminal 311 (R) (photo credit: Benoit Tessier / Reuters)
police arrest handcuffs suspect cops criminal 311 (R)
(photo credit: Benoit Tessier / Reuters)
Members of the Knesset Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women expressed alarm on Monday over a decision by police to shut down the Sa'ar branch of the national 433 Unit, and to spread the unit's officers around to local police stations, saying that the decision would significantly harm Israel's efforts against human trafficking.
Avital Rosenberg, who heads the Task Force on Human Trafficking organization, warned that if Israel fell in the international rating of countries that fight trafficking, "this will have economic impacts. Today, Israel is perceived in the world as a leader in change. The orientation around the victims by the Sa'ar Unit is new and not the norm in the world. They are coming from all over the world to study what we are doing, due to Sa'ar's success and the legislation being led by Knesset member Orit Zuaretz [and head of the committee]."
Rosenberg said 35 foreign parliamentarians and heads of organizations sent letters to object to the closure of the Sa'ar unit. "How can such a successful enterprise be destroyed?" she asked.
Zuaretz (Kadima) said she was following the implementation of a US State Department report on human trafficking, and stressed that the report has praised the Sa'ar Unit as being key to combating the phenomenon.
Closing the unit could impact relations with the State Department, she warned.
Police Cmdr. Yoav Seglovitch, head of the Operations and Intelligence Branch, said there was a disadvantage in keeping the unit in its current, concentrated form, as "this means we don't deal with peripheral areas. We thought it would be important for us to have a grasp on the ground [in the periphery]. We are trying to to increase enforcement in the north, and we are setting up fortified central units to further that aim."
Attorney Rachel Gershoni, who heads the Justice Ministry's campaign against human trafficking, told the committee that trafficking has unique crime patterns.
"It is based on keeping workers in slave and torture camps in the Sinai desert and using African migrants to work against their fellow migrants," she said.
Gershoni said damage would be caused to the aim of combating human trafficking if local police stations, rather than a central national unit, tackled the issue.