Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Israel improves in addressing human trafficking problem

By Yitzhak Benhorin
YNet News - June 13, 2007

US State Department report ranks Israel in higher category than last year, citing 'significant efforts' to comply with trafficking prevention standards and new gov't amendment to combat trafficking.
WASHINGTON - Israel has improved its record on human trafficking in the last year, according to a US State Department human rights report published Tuesday. The report ranks 151 nations based on their behavior in combating human trafficking, such as prostitution and slavery, highlighting government efforts involving prosecution, protection, and prevention.
Israel was among 23 nations ranked in the lowest category with regards to trafficking in human persons for 2005. This year, in an assessment of the issue in 2006, Israel was one of 10 nations to succeed in rising to a higher category.
According to the report, "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.

Israeli efforts
"This year, the government passed crucial amendments to its anti-trafficking law that comprehensively prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, including involuntary servitude and slavery. In addition, the government extended legal assistance to victims of trafficking for involuntary servitude, and passed a national action plan to combat trafficking for forced labor."
Despite these improvements, because the government still "does not provide forced labor victims with adequate protection services - such as shelter, medical, and psychological aid – and...has not yet reported any criminal prosecutions under its new law for labor trafficking," Israel still remains in one of the report's lower categories.
Serving as a hopeful sign for future progress, Israeli Rahel Gershuni was listed among 'heroes acting to end modern-day slavery' and was praised for leading the reform movement within the Israeli government "by serving as a catalyst for the development of policies that treat sex trafficking victims as true victims and not as criminals. "
Over the last three years, she has changed countless attitudes, shaped scores of policies, and, most importantly, saved many lives," said the report.
The reportThe report splits nations into four categories. Tier 1, the highest category, is awarded to nations who comply with minimum standards of Congress' Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
A country that fails to make significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons, per US law, receives the lowest ranking - a "Tier 3"assessment. Such an assessment could trigger the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance from the United States to that country.
In between there are Tier 2 and Tier 2 "Watch List" countries. Tier 2 countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the Act's minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Watch list nations, while making similar compliance efforts, differ from Tier 2 countries in that the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is significant or increasing or there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking.
As stated, Israel is no longer ranked as Tier 3, but it has moved up only one tier and remains on the US watch list.
According to the report, Israel is a destination country for low-skilled workers from China, Romania, Jordan, Turkey, Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India who migrate voluntarily for contract labor various industries. Some are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude, such as withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, threats, and physical intimidation.
Israel is also a destination country for women trafficked from Eastern Europe — primarily Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Russia — for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
This is the sixth annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which the State Department is required to submit each year to the US Congress. It is intended to raise global awareness, to highlight the growing efforts of the international community to combat human trafficking and to encourage foreign governments to take effective actions to counter all forms of trafficking in persons.

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