Trafficking Victim Treated as Suspected Prostitute by Immigration Authorities

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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 Immigration and Border Authority center at Ben-Gurion International Airport
Immigration and Border Authority center at Ben-Gurion International Airport Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

A Ukrainian national in Israel, the victim of human trafficking, was treated as a suspected prostitute by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority – in violation of the government policy to support and aid such victims during their rehabilitation process.

Because of the authority’s actions, the Interior Ministry refused to renew the woman’s residency permit – even though she was recognized as a victim by the police’s unit on trafficking and was receiving help from Israeli welfare authorities.

The population authority said they suspected the woman had returned to prostitution because of the large gap between the wages she reported earning and the rent she was paying. But in practice, the woman lived in an apartment with her partner, and they split the rent.

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The authority chose not to request further clarifications from the woman’s lawyer, and instead sent an inspector to the woman’s home. The inspector said he arrived at the address police had given him, even though the woman no longer lives there. As a result, the authority decided to call her on the phone.

At the beginning of October, the woman received a phone call from an unidentified number, Because she was afraid it might be from an organized crime group that she testified against for trafficking her, she did not answer the call. Instead, she asked her Israeli partner to call the number back. He did, and gave the inspector who answered the phone her new address, invited him to come visit and even told him they were planning on registering a common law marriage with the population authority at the end of the month.

Nonetheless, the woman’s lawyer, Carmel Pomerantz, was sent a message from the authority the next day saying the inspector had visited the home and received no response. The inspector said in the message that “the person in charge of the building said the apartments were rented out by the hour, and the woman who lives in apartment 4 has not been seen in a while.”

Pomerantz said the message included many factual errors: in the name of her partner, identifying him as the partner of a different woman who was also recognized as a victim of human trafficking, a mistake in the address and another mistake Pomerantz described as “intentional slander” – a claim that the apartment where she had lived in the past was rented out by the hour.

Pomerantz called the claims ridiculous and said her client had presented authorities with a new rental contract, and called the investigation “spying.” She filed a complaint against the population authority with the police and the State Comptroller’s Office.

The woman had informed the Interior Ministry at the end of January, in advance of the expiration of her residency permit, that she planned to ask for a year of rehabilitation in Israel, according to her right as a trafficking victim, said Pomerantz.

The ministry extended her residency permit temporarily until the end of September to “examine her request.” Pomerantz submitted the woman’s request for an extension to her residency permit at the end of September, but she did not receive an answer before it expired. The subsequent request was denied, because of the actions of the population authority.

The population authority said this is a case of a woman who has been recognized as a victim of human trafficking and who submitted a request for a year of rehabilitation. The documents submitted as part of the request reflected important differences that required a detailed examination, said the authority, adding that this is why their representatives were sent to examine the documents.

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