Israel cited for improved crackdown on human trafficking

Israel cited for improved crackdown on human trafficking

Annual US State Department report ranks Israel among Western countries for the first time; Justice Ministry calls it 'a milestone'

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative photo of a sex worker (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a sex worker (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israel’s crackdown on human trafficking has improved over the past year and reached an all-time high, according to the US State Department’s 2012 Trafficking of Persons report published Wednesday.

The US State Department raised Israel’s rating to Tier 1, which demarcates a country that fully complies with the minimum standards in combating trafficking. The new ranking marked Israel’s gradual rise from a Tier 2 watch-list country in 2006, with “high or increasing numbers of trafficking victims” that didn’t meet international trafficking standards, to a fully compliant state on par with other Western countries.

Although Israel remains “a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the report said, the government “fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, including “sustained strong law enforcement actions against sex trafficking and strong overall prevention efforts during the year.”

Israel’s treatment of the rising number of migrants and asylum-seekers from Sudan and Eritrea was a point of criticism in the report. The US State Department found shortcomings in the protection of “foreign workers, foreign migrants, and asylum seekers arriving from Egypt who were forced into sexual servitude or forced labor during their captivity in the Sinai.” Identification and provision of medical treatment for victims of trafficking was insufficient, the report said.

Despite the flaws in Israel’s enforcement of human trafficking law, however, the US State Department found marked improvement in the last year in prosecution, protection, and prevention of human trafficking infractions.

Responding to the report, Israel’s Justice Ministry said it was “pleased that Israel’s achievements in this struggle have been recognized.” The Ministry added that the recognition of the combined efforts of government ministries, the Knesset, and NGOs was “a milestone for the State of Israel and Israeli society.”

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