Human Trafficking

Legal aid by the Legal Aid districts all over the country is provided to all victims of human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution and/or for the purposes of slavery, in all matters pertaining to proceedings pursuant to the Entry into Israel Law or civil proceedings arising from the commitment of offenses, without undergoing an economic eligibility test.

The phenomenon of human trafficking is a global phenomenon, shrouded in secrecy, so it is difficult to estimate its scale in figures. The phenomenon is expressed through the import of humans from countries in distress to other countries in order to fulfill various needs, including sexual exploitation, forced labor or forced services, employment in prostitution, slavery or similar practices to slavery and removing one of the body organs. The nature of the phenomenon is based upon the use of illegal methods, such as: use of force or threat of the use of force, or through other means, such as coercion, kidnapping, fraud or deception.
In many cases human trafficking includes smuggling persons from poor countries to rich countries, when the process exploits the gaps in the standard of living between the poor countries and the rich countries. The recruiters approach the victims, either by advertisements in the press or personally or by third parties, promise them profitable employment opportunities on reasonable terms and lead them to believe that in the destination countries they can work in respectable employment or it will be possible for them to earn large sums of money and improve their standard of living in their poor country. Some of the victims are recruited via a manpower company and the temptation is accompanied by promises of a fat profit, good conditions and the promise of work for a limited period.
The victims of the trafficking are smuggled into the destination country (on tourist visas, by kidnapping of tourists, fictitious marriages, illegal documents, illegal border crossing, etc.) and there they are held under severe conditions, including imprisonment, threats, violence and confiscation of passports by their employers.
The vulnerability of the trafficking victims is especially severe in view of their foreignness in the destination country. When they arrive illegally, the traders see to it that they are instilled with a fear of complaining to the authorities. Even if they arrived legally, they are not familiar with the language and local culture and this deters them from exercising their rights. The smugglers persuade the victims that they owe the smugglers a payment for their being smuggled to the destination country and this payment is collected via work (a custom called "charging debts"). The amount of the debt and volume of work required in order to pay it are determined arbitrarily by the employers.
In the State of Israel, the phenomenon of human trafficking focuses on the import of women from source countries for the purpose of employing them in prostitution. Most of the trafficking victims are young women between the ages of 18 to 35 with most of them being on the younger edge of the spectrum. As a rule, these are young women with a problematic family background, orphans, living in dire poverty, poorly educated, etc. The young women are sent to transitional countries on their way to Israel and in many cases they undergo exploitation and even coercion on their way. Upon their arrival, they are sent to brothels or apartments, without the possibility of leaving for several months, they undergo great humiliation, are kept under severe conditions and forced to work long hours.
Legal aid by the Legal Aid districts all over the country is provided to all victims of human trafficking whether or not they testify. Pursuant to the Prevention of Human Trafficking (Legislation Amendments) Law, 5763 – 2003, the Legal Aid Law, 5732 – 1972 (hereinafter: "the Legal Aid Law") was amended whereby the right to legal aid was granted as aforesaid. Furthermore, this amendment prescribed that it was possible to apply legal aid gradually. At the first stage, the legal aid would be applied to the women staying at the "Ma'agen" shelter for the trafficking victims but it was prescribed in the Law that the provision of aid should be discontinued no later than August 1, 2006. With effect from April 2006, the aid is provided to all the trafficking victims, including women staying in detention facilities.
1. Women who arrive at a shelter receive an explanation from the staff about their legal rights and about the possibility of being represented on behalf of the Legal Aid Department and they also sign a document confirming that they have received an explanation. Representatives from the Legal Aid Department visit the shelter every so often and give lectures on the subject of the Department's activity and the aid provided to victims of the trafficking in women and also an explanation about their right to file a civil claim against whoever trafficked them, about the possibility of receiving financial compensation from him and about all the rights they are entitled to, including aid in an application for a residency visa.
2. Women who are held at detention facilities. An interministerial team established with the participation of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Police and Detention Tribunal judges led by Advocate Rachel Gershoni (the Interministerial Coordinator for the Struggle Against Human Trafficking) agreed that it was worthwhile and desirable that a social worker be placed in every detention facility whose job it would be, inter alia, to locate victims of trafficking in women and inform them of their rights including receiving legal aid in civil actions arising from the offense of trafficking and in proceedings pursuant to the Entry into Israel Law. It was also decided that the Detention Tribunal judges, the detention facilities staff, staff from the relevant organizations and the Immigration Administration field workers would be responsible for the location of victims of trafficking.
On October 29, 2006, the Prohibition of Human Trafficking (Legislative Amendments) Law, 5767 – 2006 entered into force; the Law contained amendments to the Penal Law and prescribed new offenses of Holding on Conditions of Slavery (Section 375A of the Penal Law) and Human Trafficking for Additional Purposes Beyond Engaging in Prostitution (Section 377A(a) of the Penal Law). The purposes of human trafficking according to this new legislation include, in addition to engaging in prostitution, also removing any of the bodily organs, bearing and taking away a child, being used for slavery, being used for forced labor, being used for participation in pornographic publication or pornographic display and committing a sexual offense. The Prohibition of Human Trafficking Law also contained, in addition to the amendment to the Penal Law, an indirect amendment to the Legal Aid Law that changed the offense section relating to the offense of human trafficking to engagement in prostitution.
At the same time, the Prohibition of Human Trafficking Law prescribed a temporary provision that extended the application of the Legal Aid Law also to victims of offenses of holding on conditions of slavery and human trafficking.
Since 2004 the Department has provided legal aid to about 170 victims of trafficking in women for engagement in prostitution in proceedings pursuant to the Entry into Israel Law as well as civil claims. Likewise, aid was provided to about 25 victims of the offense of holding on conditions of slavery and human trafficking for other purposes, excluding engagement in prostitution, just like slavery and forced labor.
The activity report published by "Ma'agen" – a shelter established for trafficking victims that is operated by the Ministry of Social Affairs, relating to 2007, notes that 94% of the women referred to the shelter in 2007 received legal aid by the Department and that the aid constitutes a stage in the woman's ability to empower herself and claim the rights she is entitled to and is a powerful therapeutic tool.
Even reports from the American State Department that were submitted to Congress within the framework of a report of the struggle against human trafficking in countries world wide, favorably notes the actions taken by the Legal Aid Department for trafficking victims. For example, in the report published on January 2007, the Legal Aid was counted among the factors contributing to the determination that there had been significant progress in the struggle against trafficking in the State of Israel that contributed to our removal from the control list of countries that were not sufficiently fighting to eliminate the phenomenon. A report published in 2008 favorably noted the amendment to the Legal Aid Law, whereby victims of offenses of "holding on conditions of slavery" and human trafficking for slavery and forced labor were entitled to legal aid.
Apart from the individual aid in representation, the Legal Aid Department regularly participates in interministerial teams active in the field, in meetings of the parliamentary committee in the field of the struggle against human trafficking, gives lectures before various forums about its activity in the field and the trafficking phenomenon (including in lawyers' continuing education courses), is a partner in the drafting of bills on the subject, holds training courses for lawyers working on its behalf and representing trafficking victims and brings important cases where it represented to the attention of the media.