“The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” says the US Department of State in its “Trafficking in Persons Report for 2011”. It adds, “Israel continued law enforcement actions against trafficking and continued to make strong prevention efforts. The government continued to take inadequate steps, however, to identify and protect labor trafficking victims and prosecute and convict labor trafficking offenders in the reporting period.”
The State Department classifies countries with three ratings, “tier 1” countries that comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, mostly countries in Europe and North America; “tier 2” countries that not comply with the minimum standards, and have large numbers of human trafficking, but which make efforts to combat it; and “tier 3” countries that neither comply with the minimal standards and make no effort to do so. Israel is classified as a “tier 2” country.
Israel’s “tier 2” peers include Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Syria, as well as India, China, Russia, and developed countries such as Iceland, Japan, Greece, and Switzerland.
The report on Israel is little different from the previous reports. It says, “Israel is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and other trafficking. 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, including through such practices as the unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, inability to change or otherwise choose one’s employer, nonpayment of wages, threats, assault, and physical intimidation. Many labor recruitment agencies in source countries and in Israel require workers to pay recruitment fees typically ranging from $4,000 to $20,000 – a practice making workers highly vulnerable to trafficking or debt bondage once working in Israel. One NGO noted that recruitment fees increased in 2010.”
The report cites Ministry of Interior figures, which say that 14,000 migrants entered Israel from Sinai in 2010, up from 5,000 in 2009.
The State Department says that Israel government sustained its strong law enforcement progress against sex trafficking and that it also made initial progress against labor trafficking, as seen through the first prosecution under a labor trafficking statute involving a migrant worker. The government also continued to improve its protection of trafficking victims over the reporting period, although it lacked effective procedures to identify victims of labor trafficking.
The State Department advises Israel to significantly increase prosecutions, convictions, and punishment of labor trafficking offenders (including “employers”) and offenses. Israel should also ensure that labor trafficking crimes are prosecuted under labor trafficking statutes; ensure trafficking victims are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as immigration violations; and continue to investigate the incidence of Israeli nationals subjected to forced prostitution. Domestically, Israel should increase the number of labor inspectors and translators in the agriculture, construction, and homecare sectors, ensuring that they are adequately trained in identifying trafficking cases, and internationally, it should stop the practice of “hot returns” – immediately returning migrants back to Egypt.