US human trafficking report: Israel has room to improve

PHR-Israel release statement in response to report, say it reinforces grave failures of the Israeli government to defeat human trafficking.

women_311 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
Israel has been designated a 'Tier 2' country in US State Department's annual Trafficking in Person's Report.
This ranking is reserved for countries that do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but are making significant efforts to do so.

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The non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-Israel) released a statement Tuesday in response to the report.
The statement says that the report reinforces the grave failures of the Israeli government to fully address and defeat human trafficking. They are pleased that the issue of how migrants that arrive from Egypt are dealt with has been raised.
PHR-Israel also said that they hope that Israel will provide more assistance to refugees and victims of human trafficking under this renewed pressure from its most powerful ally.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a letter opening the report "We must ensure that our efforts continue to address all forms of trafficking, whether for sex or labor, internal or transnational, or affecting men, women, or children. We must prevent this crime by forging partnerships that will hold source countries responsible for exploitative recruiting and ensure that destination countries employ vigorous victim identification efforts and forcefully prosecute traffickers."
According to the report, "The Israeli government made sustained progress in preventing trafficking in persons over the reporting period."
Measures the government has taken to help prevent trafficking include well-coordinated inter-agency work, several investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers, and an amendment to the Foreign Workers Law in November 2010, which authorizes inspectors to enter and inspect a private household where migrant workers are employed.
The Israeli government also posts an annual summary of their anti-trafficking efforts on the Internet and holds a Knesset meeting to discuss each years' report.
However, in its criticism of Israel, the report said that although it "continued law enforcement actions against sex trafficking and continued to make strong prevention efforts, the government continued to take inadequate steps to identify and protect labor trafficking victims and prosecute and convict labor trafficking offenders in the reporting period."
In addition, the report is critical of Israel's treatment of migrants arriving from Sinai, saying that Israel needs to strengthen victim identification and accord trafficking victims full protections and medical treatment.

It also states that Israel should "cease practice of immediately returning migrants back to Egypt (“hot returns”) without determining if they were trafficking victims in the Sinai."
As a country with a high level of immigration, Israel is also a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The report states that "low-skilled workers from Thailand, China, Nepal, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and, to a lesser extent, Romania, migrate voluntarily and legally to Israel for temporary contract labor in construction, agriculture, and home health care provision.
Some, however, subsequently face conditions of forced labor. According to the Ministry of Interior, organized Bedouin groups keep migrants captive in the Sinai with an unknown number of them forced into sexual servitude or labor to build homes and serve as domestic workers. Some women from the former Soviet Union and China are subjected to forced prostitution in Israel, although the number of women affected has declined since the passage and implementation of Israel’s 2006 anti-trafficking bill."