Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Israel

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 11 June 2003
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Israel, 11 June 2003, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Israel (Tier 2)

Israel is a destination country for trafficked persons. Women from Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries in the former Soviet Union are trafficked to Israel for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Persons in search of work are trafficked into situations of coerced labor, where they endure physical abuse or other extreme working conditions. Many low-skilled foreign workers in Israel have their passports withheld, their contracts altered, and suffer non-payment of salaries of varying degree and duration. Construction firms and other businesses have brought male laborers from China and Bulgaria into Israel to work under conditions equivalent to debt bondage or involuntary servitude.

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. Although the government has pursued numerous cases of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, it must continue taking steps to combat trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Labor trafficking is a relatively new phenomenon in Israel and the government should increase its efforts to prosecute those involved in perpetrating labor trafficking over the next year. The government should ensure that employers comply with labor regulations, protect the rights of migrant workers, and curb fraud associated with issuance of work permits.


The government, in conjunction with NGOs, has undertaken public awareness campaigns that include the development and distribution in Israel of flyers and other information in Russian on trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. It also is using its consulates and embassies in source countries to provide information to potential victims of sex trafficking.


Israeli law criminalizes trafficking in persons for purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Other charges such as rape, false imprisonment, retaining a passport, forced labor, prostitution by means of coercion or fraud, and kidnapping for the purpose of prostitution may also be brought. The maximum penalty for aggravated trafficking or trafficking of a minor is 20 years in prison and the penalties proscribed by law are commensurate with those for rape and assault; however, the majority of cases are resolved through plea bargains that result, on the average, in sentences of about two years. Law enforcement actively investigates allegations of trafficking for sexual exploitation and last year opened 67 investigations of 138 people and arrested 92 suspects. The government prosecuted some 30 cases resulting in 28 plea bargains, many of which carried sentences ranging from six months to nine years and fines. The government also is investigating individual policemen for taking bribes or tipping off brothels of raids, but these instances of corruption are not widespread; a small cadre of dedicated officials works to combat trafficking, but low staffing and funding hamper the officials' efforts. The Ministry of Justice held anti-trafficking seminars for prosecutors and police. To combat labor trafficking, the Immigration Authority was established in September 2002 to coordinate government activity related to foreign nationals, including the investigation of offenses against migrant workers. Labor laws determining minimum wage, guaranteed pay and annual leave apply to all workers in Israel but enforcement measures are mainly directed against migrant workers and not against the employers who may openly breach the law. The Immigration Authority has an investigation unit that has uncovered several networks of criminals involved in document forgery and fraud. Prosecutors filed an indictment against four suspects allegedly involved in abusing workers from Bulgaria. Israel exercises strict control and supervision of its borders.


Victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation who are willing to testify against their traffickers are housed in police-funded hostels, and are provided full board, pocket money, and access to medical care. Victims unwilling to testify are deported. Victims are not prosecuted or fined for offenses material to their trafficking, such as illegal entry or forged documentation. Police actively encourage victims to file complaints against traffickers. The government partially funds a hotline. Regulations stipulate that migrant workers who report a criminal offense are not detained, are allowed access to an interpreter, and may stay in Israel as witnesses during a criminal trial; some NGOs allege that these regulations are sometimes violated.

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