In bad company – The US State Department on Tuesday published its annual Trafficking in Persons report, ranking Israel in the same category as Pakistan and Rwanda.
According to the report findings, "The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking."
The reports states that "Israel is a destination-country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Low-skilled workers from Thailand, China, Nepal, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and, to a lesser extent, Romania, migrate voluntarily and legally to Israel for temporary contract labor in construction, agriculture, and home health care provision.
"Some, however, subsequently face conditions of forced labor, including through such practices as the unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, inability to change or otherwise choose one’s employer, nonpayment of wages, threats, sexual assault, and physical intimidation," the report read.
In addition, it is stated that "many labor recruitment agencies in source countries and in Israel require workers to pay recruitment fees typically ranging from $4,000 to $20,000 – a practice making workers highly vulnerable to trafficking or debt bondage once working in Israel."
The report notes that "an increased number of migrants (approximately 14,000) crossed into Israel in 2010 from the Sinai, compared with approximately 5,000 in 2009.
"Organized Bedouin groups kept many of these migrants captive in the Sinai; an unknown number of them were forced into sexual servitude or labor to build homes and serve as domestic workers."
Israel is not included in the list of western democratic states in terms of fulfilling the minimal standards required to battle human trafficking – a list which includes western Europe, United States, Canada and Australia.
Instead, Israel is placed in Tier 2, alongside countries such as Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Oman and Sierra Leone.
According to the report's classification, Tier 2 includes "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards."
At the bottom of the list are Tier 3 states such as Iran, North Korea, Algeria, Myanmar, Kuwait, Syrian, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen.
Yitzhak Benhorin in Washington contributed to this report