The U.S. State Department has ranked Israel a “Tier 1” country for the fight to prevent human trafficking for the second year in a row, Secretary of State John Kerry announced. A Tier 1 country is one that “fully complies” with the terms of the State Department’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards. The Jerusalem Post reports:
From the legislative level down to non-profit organizations working with victims of sex and labor trafficking to Israel, the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report commended the country’s efforts to tackle the problem, including prevention and treatment for the victims.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told Israel Radio that despite the high ranking, Israel must continue “pouring in resources in preventing and deterring these crimes and to care for the victims.”
China and Russia were downgraded to the same tier as North Korea and Iran, reports the Times of Israel. Less than a decade ago, Israel was a Tier 3 country, the lowest grade—and, for Livni, an embarrassing list to be on:
Only a decade ago, Israel featured on the embarrassing, infamous list of countries where humans are trafficked,” Livni said in a statement. “That’s what makes the report significant, because it places Israel in the same tier as other progressive countries that fight modern slavery.
President Barack Obama has 90 days to apply sanctions to countries in the Tier 3 category, YNet explains.
Only a few years ago, the situation in Israel was very different. Ranked a Tier 2 country, Israel wasn’t doing all it could to meet the international standards. From the 2008 State Department report:
The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. This year, the government increased the number of convictions for sex trafficking offenses, and conducted a campaign to prevent forced labor. Israel also continues to provide victims of sex trafficking with shelter and protection assistance.
In 2009, the Interior Ministry in Israel was unable to even locate human trafficking victims, though there were reportedly between 2,000 and 3,000 individuals forced into labor or sexual exploitation. Hanny Ben-Israel, a lawyer for advocacy group Kav La’Oved told Haaretz at the time:
Treatment of the matter is insufficient, due primarily to a lack of awareness that this is a serious criminal offense,” she said. “A failure to locate victims shows only that the unit is disconnected from what’s happening on the ground, and when someone doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be looking for, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t find it.
Shortly after that report, the Interior Ministry’s Oz unit began practicing new techniques to identify trafficking victims.
Related: Exporting Israeli Prostitutes [Tablet Magazine]