US State Department: Israel inadequate in fighting human trafficking

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Israel does not fully meet the minimum standards set for eliminating human trafficking, according to a US State Department report published Thursday, marking the third straight year Israel’s conduct on the matter has been considered inadequate.

However, the report also recognized “significant efforts” made by the Israeli government to improve on the matter.

Israel remains in Tier 2 of the State Department ranking, meaning that while the government does not fully meet the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s standards, there is a recognition of efforts to reach those standards.

According to the report, Israel’s efforts demonstrated an overall improving trend compared to the previous reporting period. The measures Israel has taken include approving a comprehensive anti-trafficking implementation plan for 2022-2026, recognizing more victims of trafficking and revising the procedures for victim recognition. A modest increase in the investigations, prosecutions and convictions related to human trafficking were also reported.

Nevertheless, the US State Department highlighted that Israel fell short of meeting the minimum standards in several crucial areas. The report underscored that Israel’s efforts to hold labor traffickers criminally accountable are still inadequate. Notably, the government did not consistently investigate labor trafficking cases referred to them by non-governmental organizations. In 2022, 25 investigations regarding human trafficking were initiated by the police.

Furthermore, the report raised concerns about the Israeli government’s “non-enforcement” policy for the 14,000 Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers who fled to Israel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These refugees, working on tourist visas in Israel, have found themselves in a vulnerable state that the report says could potentially lead to trafficking.

The report also criticized an Israeli policy limiting asylum seekers from working in 17 different cities, thereby raising the likelihood of trafficking.

In a statement, the Justice Ministry division dealing with human trafficking expressed disappointment regarding Israel’s Tier 2 ranking, but added that the report reflects Israeli efforts to mitigate the problem.

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