Israel has for the night year in a row topped the international list of countries in the battle against human trafficking, a U.S. government report said.
The U.S. State Department paper said that during 2019, Israel reported to have received 96 referrals from NGOs and government sources about potential victims of human trafficking in the country.
Of the 96 referrals, 73 individuals were recognized by the Israeli government as victims, including 58 women and 15 men, with 38 being victims of sex trafficking and 34 victims of forced labor.
In 2019, the police initiated 125 investigations, including 110 probes into potential sex trafficking crimes, eight forced labor crimes, and seven child sex trafficking violations.
The Legal Aid Department at the Justice Ministry provided free legal aid to trafficking victims, with staff members regularly visiting shelters and facilities to provide consultations.
In 2019, the branch received 86 requests for legal aid from victims of sex-trafficking, including 16 illegal migrants who claim to have been subjected to human trafficking abuses in the Sinai Peninsula along Israel's border with Egypt.
In the first nine months of 2019, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services issued 415 administrative warnings, imposed 53 fines - worth NIS 9.6 million ($2.78 million) in total - and processed four criminal complaints that resulted in five indictments on charges of forces labor.
The government, in cooperation with various NGOs, continues to operate a 24-hour hotline, which last year employed 13 interpreters in nine languages: Chinese, Thai, Bulgarian, Russian, Nepalese, Sinhalese, Romanian, Ukrainian, and Turkish. In 2019, the hotline received 3,467 calls.
The annual reports, published each year since 2001, ranks countries by three different categories – prosecution, protection and prevention – divided into three tiers: 1, 2, 2 Watch List and 3.
Countries in Tier 3 are in danger of being subject to U.S. and international sanctions.
Israel has found its way to Tier 2 in the past, but since 2012 has consistently remained in Tier 1, along with Australia, Japan, Belgium, France, UK, Portugal and Argentina.
Some of the countries found in Tier 3 include Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Russia.