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Cablegate: Trafficking Ngos Weigh in On Where the System Is

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


B. 04 STATE 273089

(U) Note: In addition to Post's earlier extensive
submissions in connection with the annual Trafficking in
Persons report, Post offers the following abbreviated summary
of comments received from NGO and GOI representatives in the
process of compiling the Ref (A) submissions and on which Ref
(A) submissions were based.

1. (SBU) Summary: Representatives of Israeli NGOs against
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) say that the GOI, while
inflicting stricter sentencing of traffickers and
implementing other improvements, still falls short in some
areas in its efforts to combat TIP. NGO representatives
charge that:

-- Smuggling women into Israel for prostitution remains too

-- The absence of laws against prostitution hamper efforts to
fight trafficking;

-- The police often fail to distinguish trafficking victims
from other foreigners illegally in Israel, and therefore rush
to deport them before they can testify against traffickers.

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-- Court congestion delays trials of traffickers for up to a
year, thus lessening the chances that TIP victims will be
available to testify.

-- Israel's sole shelter for trafficked women is operating
below full capacity because police are referring only those
willing to testify against traffickers.

-- Women in the shelter complain of restrictions on time they
can spend outside the shelter.

NGOs also say, however, that the government has improved
certain aspects of its efforts to combat TIP, some of which

-- Better TIP-related training for government investigators
and police.

-- Despite often rushed deportations of trafficking victims,
improved GOI efforts to obtain testimony from trafficking
victims for prosecuting traffickers.

-- The closure of brothels, where many trafficking victims
for prostitution work; and

-- The implementation of a new public awareness campaign in
source countries to educate women about the dangers of coming
to work in Israel as prostitutes. End Summary.

Getting Into Israel: Easier Than It Should Be

2. (SBU) NGO contacts and GOI officials contended in both
introductory and follow-on meetings with Poloff that
anecdotal evidence indicates women continue to be easily
trafficked into Israel to work as prostitutes. The GOI says,
however, that the number of women trafficked for prostitution
during 2004 decreased to 1,000-1,500 from 2,000-3000 in 2003.
NGO contacts said, for example, that some women who enter
with visas are able to obtain the visas without personal
interviews or by use of fraudulent documents indicating that
they are Jewish. The GOI has also indicated that this latter
problem exists, particularly with women from Ukraine, but
neither the government nor NGOs could provide estimates.

3. (SBU) In 2003, the GOI established the Border Police
Ramon Unit to patrol along the Egypt-Israel border, which
Israeli officials say is the prime route for smuggling women,
drugs and weapons into Israel. Several NGOs charge that the
new unit has not been effective in preventing people from
illegally crossing the border, based on the number of
trafficked women still entering Israel. The Ramon Unit's
Foreign Press spokesperson rejected this criticism in a
conversation with Poloff, but acknowledged that the Unit's
successes have primarily been in the interception of tobacco
and drugs, and some weapons. During 2004, according to the
GOI, the Unit interdicted 43 women attempting to cross the
border, all presumed to be trafficking victims.

4. (SBU) Deterring victims from trying to enter Israel is
the first step to blocking TIP, say many NGO activists, who
thus advocate educating potential victims before they travel.
As part of an ongoing public awareness/prevention campaign,
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in November 2003
that it would begin distributing Russian-language brochures
-- for use in TIP source countries such as Russia, Uzbekistan
and Moldova -- that warn women of the dangers of going to
Israel to work as prostitutes, an effort spearheaded by the
NGO Isha L'isha (Woman to Woman). Other NGOs have applauded
this governmental effort to prevent TIP in source countries
and predicted that it will be effective in deterring many
women from coming to Israel. No such campaign, however,
targets the victims once they are already working in Israel,
which could educate the women on where to get help and how to
contact law enforcement officials without fear. Although the
information might not reach trafficking victims living in
conditions of bondage, one NGO suggested using creative
outlets for disseminating such information, such as taxi
The Law: Does It Deter Or Encourage TIP?

5. (SBU) Because Israeli law does not prohibit prostitution,
the Israeli legal system indirectly encourages TIP, asserted
Uri Sadeh of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. The Israeli
Parliament (Knesset), however, has considered "criminalizing
the client." Several NGO contacts said they believe that
legally prohibiting solicitation, and/or use of the services
of a prostitute would decrease demand for prostitution, and
thus TIP. Sadeh noted that such legislation has not yet been
introduced and predicted that it would encounter fierce
opposition, if it were, because it would criminalize an
activity that is quietly tolerated. Ministry of Justice
lawyer Rochelle Gershoni told Poloff that a February 2004 MOJ
legal opinion concluded that criminalizing the client would
only be effective if the government conducted a public
education campaign in advance to "prepare the public." She
noted that this law is still being considered, but could not
give a timeframe for any further action.

The Police: Insensitive to Trafficked Women

6. (SBU) Compounding problems, the Israeli police, Sadeh
charged, pay inadequate attention to trafficking, although
police claim that their closure of a number of brothels
during 2004 has helped deter trafficking for prostitution in
Israel. The police, Sadeh said, often fail to identify
detainees as trafficking victims, and thereby do not obtain
valuable testimony from them that could be used to prosecute
their traffickers. He said that many victims who could
benefit from the protection of Israel's only trafficking
shelter (The USG helped to underwrite construction of the
shelter) never get there because most referrals are done by
the police, who fail to distinguish trafficking victims from
others in Israel's larger population of illegal foreign

7. (SBU) To underscore the point, Sadeh brought Poloff in
February to the Ma'asiyahu detention facility to meet and
interview detainees he identified as trafficking victims.
All were detained in the wing housing illegal foreign
workers. Sadeh asserted that most trafficking victims
detained by police are ultimately deported without anyone
realizing that they were trafficked. If such detainees are
identified as trafficking victims, they are asked to testify
and, if they agree, are sent to the trafficking shelter. The
GOI, in a written report to the Embassy about TIP, said its
police officers are doing more to encourage TIP victims to
testify. The government says "it is a matter of police
policy to encourage victims of trafficking to testify against
traffickers and to try to ensure that traffickers will be
prosecuted." Sadeh's colleague at the Hotline for Migrant
Workers, Shevy Korzen, said the authorities sometimes do not
communicate news of the pending deportation of trafficking
victims to NGOs. Were the authorities to do so, the NGOs
could contact counterpart NGOs in the source countries, that
help rehabilitate and reintegrate the returning trafficking
victims. Korzen acknowledged, however, that police do
initiate this NGO contact in many cases, but could not
provide numerical estimates.

8. (SBU) An Israeli police intelligence commander told
Poloff that the police refer to the shelter only those
trafficking victims who agree to testify because of the
shelter's limited capacity and as an inducement for victims
to provide evidence against traffickers. The police referred
108 trafficking victims for prostitution to the shelter,
according to police sources, who also claimed that the police
have instituted better training for its officers to recognize
TIP and identify its victims. For example, the School of
Continuing Education for Police conducted two programs on
trafficking in December 2004 and February 2005 for police.
One training session focused on trafficking rings, and how to
identify, investigate and gather evidence for, prosecution
of trafficking cases; the other was an overview of
trafficking generally. In 2004, the police also reportedly
organized for its officers 20 lectures by guest speakers on
trafficking, including the state's overall policy regarding
prevention, prosecution, investigation and protection.
Several NGO contacts agreed that governmental efforts to
improve training law enforcement officials to combat TIP have
been effective, although some have charged that the training
did not reach enough officers.

9. (SBU) Sadeh also criticized police for sometimes
pressuring TIP victims to buy their own airline tickets home,
under threat of deportation to Egypt. Sadeh called the
threat of deportation to Egypt coercive although he
acknowledged that Israeli law allows the authorities to ask
prospective deportees to purchase their own airline tickets.

10. (SBU) The Chief Superintendent of the Israeli police for
International Operations confirmed to Poloff that the police
had in the past, sent back to Egypt women who entered Israel
from Egypt. In September 2004, however, the Police
Commander, he said, ordered the police to cease all such
deportations to Egypt and to interrogate all detained foreign
prostitutes to determine if they had been trafficked. Sadeh
claimed, however, that several trafficking victims he met in
the Tzohar detention facility in southern Israel during 2005,
told him that they were threatened with deportation to Egypt
if they did not buy their own airline tickets home.

The Courts: Backlogs Hinder TIP Prosecutions

11. (SBU) Korzen characterized 2004 as a year of marked
improvement in the prosecution of traffickers, notably
through the imposition of stiffer sentences, but expressed
concern that some trafficking victims are not told they can
testify against traffickers. Some, who might be inclined to
testify, she said, do not have a chance to do so because they
are deported quickly as illegal foreign workers. "How, she
questioned, can victims collaborate with the system, if they
are quickly deported out of the country and not fully
informed of their options (to testify)?" Korzen said that
the Hotline knows of 500 cases of women deported in 2004 and
450 in 2003, all of whom, she asserted, were trafficked into
Israel for prostitution, but deported as illegal foreign
workers. Korzen said the Hotline received this information
from the police and the Immigration Administration, but that
the Hotline was not involved in the processing of the

12. (SBU) The director of the shelter for trafficked women
in Israel, Rinat Davidovich, echoed Korzen in acknowledging
progress the judicial system has made in imposing stiffer
sentences for sentences for traffickers. Average sentences,
she said, have increased from 1-3 years to 6-8 years, with
maximum sentences now reaching 10-12 years. The lengthy
judicial process, however, has forced TIP victims who agree
to testify, she said, to wait up to a full year waiting for a
trial to begin. The victims in the shelter all get visas to
stay in Israel during, and sometimes after, the trial,
although the government does not provide them with housing or
employment during or after the trial, but permits them to

13. (SBU) MOJ attorney Rochelle Gershoni told Poloff that on
December 29, 2004, the GOI decided to implement this proposal
and on February 15, the government drafted legislation, which
is being considered by the Constitutional Law Committee of
the Knesset. The change would allow individual judges to
hear cases, effectively multiplying the capacity to try
traffickers. In a separate meeting with Poloff, however,
Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinish (protect) expressed
concern that this proposal would place all judicial
decision-making with one person, and thus could result in
arbitrary and erroneous decisions.

Protecting The Victims: Good News And Bad

14. (SBU) Hotline official Sadeh described the trafficking
shelter as well-run, a view no NGO representatives
contradicted. He blamed the police, however, for failing to
refer enough women to the shelter, estimating, based on
frequent conversations with the shelter director, that only
42 or 43 women reside in the shelter at a time, out of a
maximum capacity of 50. The shelter director confirmed to
Poloff that 42 women and one child are currently residing in
the shelter. During 2004, according to the police, 108 women
were referred to the shelter. Police contacts confirmed to
Poloff that their officers refer only those women who agree
to testify in order to facilitate the prosecution of

15. (SBU) Even women who make it to the shelter sometimes
face obstacles from the police, Korzen charged. Under the
guise of "protecting the women," the police, she and other
NGO representatives alleged, control many aspects of the
trafficked victims' lives, which NGOs assert, should not be
within police purview. Korzen told Poloff, for example, that
police decide which women can leave the shelter in order to
go to work, and for how long they can leave. Shelter
director Davidovich acknowledged that the women often claim
that they are restricted in their movements. She clarified,
however, that the police are not responsible for such
restrictions, except in those cases where it would be
dangerous for a woman to have unrestricted movement because
her pimp or trafficker is searching for her. The shelter
itself, she explained, imposes schedule limitations and
curfews on its residents to instill discipline in the women
and discourage them from working as prostitutes at night.

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