Israel failing to stop human trafficking: US State Dept

Israel failing to stop human trafficking: US State Department
3 min read
03 July, 2021
The State Department's annual report into efforts to stop human trafficking has criticised Israeli efforts and said that it is not doing enough.
Israel blamed its failings on the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of a state budget [Getty]

A new report released on Thursday by the US State Department has downgraded Israel’s efforts to combat human trafficking

According to the annual report, Israel has failed to fully implement the national anti-trafficking action plan for the third year in a row and failed to secure the required funding and staffing requirements needed to tackle the problem. 

The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report judged that Israel, “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The report noted that investigations and prosecution against those involved in human trafficking fell during the year. The one police officer assigned to the police’s anti-trafficking coordinating unit was frequently redeployed to help with pandemic-related activities. 

In 2020, Israeli police conducted 11 human trafficking investigations, which resulted in nine indictments filed, a marked decrease from the previous year, which saw 18 investigations and 20 indictments. 

The report acknowledged that the Israeli government was making efforts to tackle human trafficking, but concluded that these fell short of what was required. 

“These efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity,” the report read. 

“Government policies towards foreign workers increased their vulnerability to trafficking, and the government did not consistently investigate trafficking cases referred by NGOs,” the report stated. 

In particular, the report shone a light on an agreement between the Israeli state and private Chinese employer association, that “required workers in the construction industry to pay licensed employment recruiters’ fees and costs, which could increase their debt and vulnerability to forced labor.”

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Addressing the failings noted in the report, the Ministry of Justice’s National Anti-Trafficking Unit cited the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, and a failure of the state to pass a budget, as the reasons for the fall in efficacy. 

The Anti-Trafficking Unit said that it will, “promote an in-depth learning process and draw conclusions from the report, with the goal of Israel returning soon to its proper place as a leading country on the issue, and serving as an example for others.”

The report was welcomed by NGOs in Israel who work to stop human trafficking and hoped that the sharp criticism would lead to sustained change. 

“This is a wake-up call for the State of Israel. We hope the new government will respond to the report’s recommendations and demonstrate responsibility toward the most invisible people in Israel,” said the Hotline for Migrant Workers.