The U.S. State Department stated, Thursday, that although Israel has managed to achieve significant progress in countering human trafficking, it still “lacks the awareness to battle it and the will to do so.” The report classified Israel the same way as last year, as number two of a three-degree scale, similar to the classification of Iraq, Guatemala, Kenya and Guinea.
The report noted Israeli law enforcement agencies acted against human trafficking and established a shelter for victims of labor trafficking, and developed services for women who were brought to the country for the sex trade.
But the report also stated that after anti-trafficking duties were transferred from the immigration police to the Ministry of Interior, some law enforcement efforts and protection efforts were reduced.
It added that the lack of action against those in charge of trafficking, and in some cases enslaving the women, led to this decline.
Some of the women and the immigrants brought to the country are forced to pay huge amounts that could reach US$21, 000, an issue that forces them to be enslaved and be easily abused.
The report also noted that Israel only investigates trafficking when human rights groups file complaints on this issue. But the Ministry of Interior and the “Oz” unit are not doing enough to counter human trafficking.
But the U.S. report also commended Israel for distributing trafficking prevention brochures written in different languages. The brochures are used by consuls of Israel in different countries and are also handed to foreign workers who arrive in Israel.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel revoked licenses of eighteen personnel agencies, and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, approved a plan in January to increase penalties against agencies that charge very high recruitment fees.
The report recommended that Israel increase the punishment and convictions for offenses related to forced labor and to ensure that the victims of human trafficking are not punished or penalized for acts resulting from being trafficked.
Many human traffickers consider Israel as a prime destination for trafficking women and men from the Far East and in Eastern Europe. Most of the victims are involved in forced labor and prostitution.