Israel Grants Residency to Human Trafficking Survivor Leading Fight Against Prostitution

Chile Ezra, who was forcibly brought to Israel to work as a prostitute and was raped by a client, was in a relationship with an Israeli who died before she obtained legal status

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Chile Ezra, protesting in front of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority in Jerusalem, June 2020.
Chile Ezra, protesting in front of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority in Jerusalem, June 2020.

Israel decided Monday to grant a one-year residency visa to a 44-year-old Hungarian born survivor of human trafficking, who has resided in Israel since she was forcibly brought to the country in 1997.

Chile Ezra has become a symbol in the struggle against trafficking of women in Israel. A recovering drug addict and survivor of a violent sexual assault, Ezra stopped working as a sex worker, began a rehabilitation process and has been drug-free for 12 years.

The Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority intended to deport Ezra, but the a humanitarian committee that advises the Interior Ministry decided to extend her residency visa and work permit after reviewing her case last week.

Population and Immigration Authority Director General Shlomo Mor-Yosef decided Monday to extend her visa by one year and then reexamine her status in Israel.

Ezra had been a victim of domestic and sexual violence as a girl and had a child at young age. She abused alcohol and tranquilizers and fell prey to a criminal organization that trafficked in women when she was 22. She was forcibly brought to Israel in 1997, at the peak of human trafficking to the country. Ezra's passport was taken from her and she was trapped in a brothel where women were under strict control under threat of violence. She was forced to work as a prostitute for 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ezra managed to escape her captors but continued to work in Israel as a prostitute. She became addicted to hard drugs and married an Israeli ex-convict who worked as a clerk at a brothel after his release from prison. The couple had an unofficial civil marriage ceremony and attempted to secure resident status in Israel for Chile, whose efforts to break her addiction at the time failed. The two lived on the streets as a couple near the Tel Aviv central bus station.

She was repeatedly raped by a client, a serial rapist named Vendmo Brooklyn, who regularly attacked prostitutes in the vicinity of the former Tel Aviv bus station. She filed a police complaint and testified in court against Brooklyn, who was convicted and is serving a 28-year sentence.

In 2015, Ezra's partner died, which caused her resident status request to be denied. She was ordered to leave the country. Ezra appealed the decision and has been engaged since in a a battle to remain in Israel. Last November, she was officially recognized by Israel as a victim of human trafficking.

For the past nine years, she has lectured and provided assistance to women working in prostitution. Ezra also appeared openly in the Israeli film “A Whore Like Me,” which won an Ophir award, the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar.

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