145059 3/10/2008 13:42 08TELAVIV548 Embassy Tel Aviv UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 08STATE2731 VZCZCXYZ0167 RR RUEHWEB DE RUEHTV #0548/01 0701342 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 101342Z MAR 08 FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0093 RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 4287 RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 0027 RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 1042 RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0834 RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 1591 RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1744 RUEHCH/AMEMBASSY CHISINAU 0177 RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0354 RUEHDL/AMEMBASSY DUBLIN 0112 RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0474 RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 0029 RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV 0028 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1128 RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 0267 RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK 0145 RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1985 RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 1091 RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0011 RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 0203 RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 9250 RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 37 TEL AVIV 000548
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID
G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, PRM, NEA/RA, NEA/IPA
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: KCRM, PHUM, KWMN, SMIG, KFRD, ASEC, PREF, ELAB, IS SUBJECT: EMBASSY TEL AVIV RESPONSE FOR TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT
REF: A. STATE 2731 B. INL G/TIP GAYATRI PATEL EMAILS C. GAYATRI PATEL - ALAN HOLST TELEPHONE CONVERSATION MARCH 7
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1. (SBU) This cable is Embassy Tel Aviv's input for the 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report per Reftel A. Embassy point of contact is Alan Holst, telephone (972) 3-519-7437, fax 519-7484, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Government of Israel (GOI) TIP Report coordinator was hospitalized, and Post was granted extra time to prepare this response in order to allow for the GOI official, upon her return, to organize and submit the GOI's input, and for Post to analyze and incorporate that input. (Reftel B) Nomination of Heroes and Best Practices will be forthcoming in a separate cable.
--------------------------------------------- --- Overview of a country's activities to eliminate trafficking in persons
2. Responses to questions in paragraph 27, section A of instructions cable. (Reftel A)
-- A. Is the country a country of origin, transit, and/or destination for internationally trafficked men, women, or children?
Although numbers have declined dramatically from the past, Israel remains a destination country for women trafficked internationally for the purpose of prostitution. NGOs reported that some Israeli women were trafficked to other countries for the purpose of prostitution. NGOs allege that an unknown number (estimates vary) of foreign workers are trafficked for the purpose of labor, although reliable quantification of those charges remains elusive.
-- B. Provide, where possible, numbers or estimates for each group; how they were trafficked, to where, and for what purpose.
Most sex trafficking victims are women age 18 to 35. The government reported that that police estimates were "a few hundred" victims in 2007, but no exact figures are available. In 2007, 75 trafficked women were housed at the Maagan shelter, with 42 women and 7 children resident at the shelter as of March 1, 2008. The former Soviet Union (FSU) remains the main source of sex trafficking victims, with Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Uzbekistan the most common countries of origin. NGO Isha L'Isha Haifa Feminist Center (Isha L'Isha) reported 5 sex trafficking victims from China, and a "suspicion" that some women from the Philippines had been trafficked for the purpose of prostitution.
According to the government, most of the sex trafficking victims were smuggled across the Israel-Egyptian border, while a limited number arrived through Ben-Gurion airport
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either pretending to be tourists or using false marriage documents obtained from Israeli nationals. Most women were transferred from the Egyptian border directly to the Tel Aviv area, although some were taken to brothels or other sex establishments in other parts of Israel. According to evidence brought before the subcommittee that drafted the recommendations for the National Plan to Combat Trafficking for Prostitution, most trafficking victims are now found in call-girl establishments rather than in brothels.
According to NGO Hotline for Migrant Workers (Hotline), some Israeli women were trafficked to Canada and Ireland, which would make Israel a country of origin as well. The Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) identified England and Canada as the destination countries for trafficked Israeli women. No estimates were available on the number of Israeli women trafficked to other countries, but we received no reports to indicate it was more than a few individuals.
The extent of labor trafficking is disputed, with government and NGO estimates (and even estimates from different NGOs) often reaching very different conclusions. Two of the reasons for these discrepancies are the problems of locating potential victims (many are either in private homes as domestic servants or in isolated areas as agricultural workers) and the difficulty in soliciting testimony from the workers even when they are located. TFHT also complained that lack of enforcement of labor trafficking laws by Israeli authorities limits collection of reliable data.
The main countries of origin for foreign workers are China, the Philippines and Thailand, which are likely the main countries of origin for labor trafficking victims as well.
Histadrut, the national federation of labor unions, reported that 50 migrant workers were smuggled into Israel from Egypt. Histadrut agreed "there is no doubt" that migrant workers - as well as Israeli workers - were sometimes deprived of their rights. Nonetheless, Histadrut maintained that Israel is not a destination country for trafficked men and women. Histadrut noted that foreign workers are able to file complaints against their employers and "attain their full labor rights and benefits" and differentiated between discrimination against foreign workers, which they acknowledged, and trafficking or forced labor. Histadrut reported that 20 foreign workers were trafficked in the past five years - they did not clarify when within that period the workers were trafficked - due to debt bondage, withholding of passports, and other actions resulting in forced labor. Histadrut noted that they were aware of these individuals because they came to Histadrut's offices to complain against their employers.
NGOs have acknowledged that in many cases the workers fear losing their jobs, and thus their means of paying
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back large debts they incurred to secure the job and travel to Israel. This often prevents labor trafficking victims from speaking out against their treatment. The government has pointed out that in many cases the workers, despite the harsh conditions of their employment, do not see themselves as victims because they left even worse conditions and/or wages in their home country and would not voluntarily leave their job in Israel. The government has therefore maintained that, for a variety of reasons, it is difficult to determine which foreign workers are in fact trafficking victims, and that while labor trafficking certainly exists in Israel, it is very problematic to determine its magnitude.
According to most estimates, very few labor trafficking victims entered Israel through illegal means. Almost all labor trafficking victims entered Israel with visas. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor (MITL) issued 92,344 permits for employment of foreign workers in various fields. Based on the number of trafficking victims it assisted in 2007, Hotline estimated that 1.2 percent of migrant workers become labor trafficking victims - i.e., approximately 1,100 new labor trafficking victims in 2007.
-- C. Does the trafficking occur within the country's borders?
Some Israeli women are trafficked internally. Isha L'Isha noted a "sharp" increase of internally trafficked women in Israel. According to Hotline, most victims of labor trafficking entered the country legally and were later trafficked. In the words of the GOI response, "Trafficking is not an isolated event occurring at one specific point of time and place; it is a chain of events resulting in the trafficking of a person. Some elements may occur in Israel, while others occur in the origin and transit countries. In this sense, most of the trafficking cases include elements committed within Israel."
-- D. Does it occur in territory outside of the government's control (e.g. in a civil war situation)?
Isha L'Isha charged that sex trafficking to and from the Palestinian Authority has been going on for many years, but said that they were not yet in a position to estimate the amount.
-- E. Are any estimates or reliable numbers available as to the extent or magnitude of the problem?
Hotline theorized that sex trafficking of foreign women decreased and moved underground. Hotline reported that it assisted 49 women in 2007 who had been trafficked for sex, but that all had been trafficked before 2007. See paragraph 2, section B for additional estimates. NGO Kav LaOved estimated that "at least" several hundred migrant workers "suffer from working conditions which constitute
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slavery" and that "several thousand are subjected to forced labor."
-- F. What is (are) the source(s) of available information on trafficking in persons or what plans are in place (if any) to undertake documentation of trafficking?
There is no comprehensive report on the numbers, demographics or circumstances of labor trafficking victims, nor is any currently planned by the GOI, NGOs or IOs, to the best of our knowledge. Sources include government and NGO estimates, media reports (also estimates), and data from organizations like the Maagan shelter's annual report on the number of victims they assisted, although such data does not include undocumented cases. NGO Machon Toda'a collected most of its information through contact via the internet. The government reported that the Intelligence Department of the Israeli Police conducted routine surveys, reports and analysis of trafficking, and that the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Public Security received monthly reports on police activity in trafficking and related offenses. Hotline reported that police stopped conducting brothel raids and consequently no arrests of traffickers and little or no contact with victims by Hotline.
-- G. How reliable are the numbers and these sources?
The sources are reliable, but the numbers are often estimates and therefore vary greatly, particularly in the case of labor trafficking.
-- H. Are certain groups of persons more at risk of being trafficked (e.g. women and children, boys versus girls, certain ethnic groups, refugees, etc.)?
For internal trafficking, Israeli women from the lower socio-economic strata, often immigrants from the FSU, minors, and drug addicts are most at risk, according to the government. TFHT added women with a history of sexual abuse. For international trafficking, women age 18-35 from the FSU are at highest risk for sex trafficking, while workers from China (often construction workers), Thailand (often agricultural workers) and the Philippines (often domestic servants) constitute the largest groups of alleged labor trafficking victims. Kav LaOved identified female caregivers as the highest risk group for labor trafficking (especially those from Nepal and Sri Lanka due to languages issues) as well as Thai agricultural workers. Individuals with limited or no English skills are at higher risk for both sex and labor trafficking, and foreign workers who paid large fees to secure their jobs (Chinese workers reportedly paid the highest of fees of all foreign workers) are at higher risk for labor trafficking. The government reported that Thai agricultural workers are highly vulnerable due to their isolated places of work, lack of Hebrew language skills, and their cultural background. Hotline and Kav
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LaOved alleged that Turkish workers employed under the "Tanks for Turks" agreement were also at risk, as the agreement between the GOI and GOT (according to Kav LaOved, salaries were transferred directly to Turkey and deducted from the reciprocal purchase to which the GOI was obligated in the arrangement) bound the workers to the contracted company and left them open to abuse and exploitation. Although there are no reports of trafficking of African asylum seekers in 2007, the growing number of African asylum seekers who entered Israel illegally - their population increased from a few hundred in late 2006 to several thousand by the end of 2007 - and the desperate circumstances many of them now find themselves in suggest that they constitute an at risk group for future trafficking.
3. Responses to questions in paragraph 27, section B of instructions cable. (Reftel A)
-- A. Please provide a general overview of the trafficking situation in the country and any changes since the last TIP Report (e.g. changes in direction).
The nature of sex trafficking in Israel is in flux. The tougher laws and increased investigations and prosecutions against sex traffickers have greatly reduced the number of women trafficked into Israel from years past. The sex industry is adapting, both in going underground (call girls vs. brothels) making it harder to locate and interdict, and by procuring victims with new methods -- such as internet advertising -- and from new locations. One clear trend seems to be an increase in internal trafficking, a concern echoed by, among others, the National Investigator's Office of the Israel Police and NGO Isha L'Isha Haifa Feminist Center. There were also reports of a small number of Israeli women trafficked to other countries. While the overall problem of trafficking for the purposes of prostitution remains smaller than in the past, both the government and NGOs expressed concern about keeping ahead of the traffickers, and are working together to assess and respond to the situation.
In labor trafficking, Kav LaOved reported an increase of foreign workers exploited by the use of "flying visas," particularly in the caregiver sector, that they believe left increasing numbers of migrant workers subject to debt bondage. (See paragraph 3 section F for further reporting on this phenomena.) Kav LaOved also reported a rise in "open visas" leading to debt bondage. In this practice, employers and recruitment agents with permits to employ caregivers charge workers large amounts of money to register their names on the employer's permit. According to Kav LaOved, this enables the worker to work elsewhere without a permit, while ostensibly employed with a valid work permit, and the workers are defrauded into thinking this practice is legal and/or necessary. Kav LaOved also reported an "alarming" increase in the practice of employers or manpower agencies attempting to remove migrant workers from Israel forcefully by threats,
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intimidation and deceit. According to Kav LaOved, employers have become aware that workers are reporting these practices to the NGO, and are confiscating cell phones, restricting movement, and threatening the workers to prevent them from contacting Kav LaOved (or other organizations) to voice their complaints.
Changes in direction included the following.
On January 10, 2007 the inter-agency Committee of Directors General approved a National Plan regarding the Battle against Slavery and Trafficking in Persons for the Purposes of Slavery or Forced Labor. The plan identified five actions as the highest priorities as this stage, and appointed teams to design steps to implement them.
(1) In the realm of prevention, to undertake information campaigns in the countries of origin of foreign workers in order to equip them with basic information about their conditions of employment and rights.
(2) In the realm of prosecution, to coordinate a clear division of labor among the law enforcement agencies in regard to investigation and prosecution of regulatory offenses versus criminal law offenses like trafficking and slavery.
(3) In the realm of prosecution, to design a guide by which to identify victims of trafficking and slavery (otherwise known as a national referral mechanism) to be used at relevant crossroads.
(4) In the realm of protection, to establish supportive frameworks and an array of services for victims of trafficking and slavery, including residence solutions and medical insurance.
(5) In the realm of protection, to promote safe return of victims of trafficking and slavery to their countries of origin.
On July 11, 2007 the Committee of Directors General approved a National Plan regarding the Battle against Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of Prostitution. The committee identified five goals as the highest priorities at this stage, and appointed inter-ministerial teams to design steps to implement them.
(1) In the realm of prevention, to strengthen supervision of the Egyptian border.
(2) In the realm of prosecution, to encourage awareness of possible changes in patterns of criminal activity and act accordingly.
(3) In the realm of protection, to fashion a tool kit to facilitate the identification of victims of trafficking.
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(4) In the realm of protection, to promote the safe return of victims of trafficking to their countries of origin.
(5) In the realm of protection, to make efforts to ensure medical treatment to all victims of trafficking who have legal status in Israel.
On December 2, 2007, Government Resolution 2670 approved the National Plan to Combat Trafficking for Prostitution and the National Plan to Combat Trafficking for Labor; approved the establishment of a shelter and three apartments for victims of slavery and trafficking for slavery and forced labor; and approved an annual national award for individuals and organizations or offices that made "outstanding contributions to the battle against trafficking."
In June 2007, detailed guidelines concerning trafficking in persons were issued by the Investigations and Intelligence Division of the Israeli Police dealing with treatment of trafficking offenses, including distribution of areas of responsibility between police units and treatment of related offenses.
Following a series of inter-agency meetings chaired by the National Coordinator to Combat Trafficking in Persons (National Coordinator) a procedure to transfer relevant information between agencies was developed.
Israel signed and is in the final stages of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography; and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women in Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime.
Israel facilitated an agreement between the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and Thailand -- a key country of origin for labor trafficking victims in Israel -- to supervise the recruitment of Thai workers to Israel so as to prevent high middleman fees and to "insure legal, fair and well informed temporary migration to Israel for work in the agricultural sector." The agreement sets a maximum recruitment fee of 3,135 NIS, including medical examinations, exclusive of travel expenses to Israel. IOM will work with an NGO partner in Israel and with the Foreign Workers Department of MITL to implement the program.
The government halted the entry of Nepalese workers in 2007 because Nepal lacked diplomatic representation in Israel. Kav LaOved noted that the entry of Nepalese workers has not resumed despite the recent opening of a Nepalese Embassy.
Various government and police officials participated in numerous international events related to fight against trafficking.
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Responsibilities for the Omsbudswoman for the Complaints of Foreign Workers, which served as a clearing house for complaints of foreign workers in the construction industry, broadened its responsibilities to include foreign workers in agriculture and nursing care. The Omsbudswoman received 243 complaints in 2007, of which 170 were concluded and 73 were still under investigation.
MITL issued a special workers' rights brochure for the construction industry in English, Russian, Romanian, Turkish, Thai and Chinese. MITL also began distributing a brochure -- in Hebrew, English, Chinese, Thai, Russian, Romanian and Turkish -- setting out general labor rights of foreign workers in Israel to every foreign workers -- education, one governing the environment, and another looking at forests and the wise use of this resource.
5. (C) Sabdarat also trumpeted recent steps taken by the Ministry that should ensure the rights of the accused, except in the case of those arrested in the act of violent crimes: no arrests in the middle of the night, allowing bail, and allowing bail that ensures the release of accused on the same day. The Minister said that he wanted to strengthen the presumption of innocence that is part of English common law, which undergirds Sudan's (and America's) legal system.
6. (C) Comment: A former Communist, and political prisoner, who threw in his lot with the current regime when it seized power in a coup in 1989, Sabdarat is nothing if not a survivor. He speaks in half truths: Sudan's press law is indeed better than, say, Saudi Arabia or Syria. There are no "political" prisoners but individuals can be easily accused for common crimes as a form of political vendetta. The regime does not actually respect the rule of law and will violate any written rights guarantee if it feels its national security interests - the survival of the regime - are threatened. And Sudan's atrocious behavior on so many issues over the past few years shows it to be a paranoid regime that often feels threatened. End comment. FERNANDEZ