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Type of document: News
Topic: Trafficking patterns
Geographic descriptors: Israel
Language: English
Source: www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/661316.html
Date of publication: 22 December 2005
Long Abstract: Indian woman seeks status as victim of human trafficking

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz Correspondent

A woman with Indian citizenship is seeking the status of a victim of human trafficking after claiming that the family she worked for in Tel Aviv kept her as a slave for five years.

In a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who also serves as acting interior minister, the Hotline for Migrant Workers has asked that Lajsinta Fernandez be given the same treatment as women who are sold into prostitution. This would enable her to remain in Israel with a work permit for another year.

According to the complaint she filed with the Immigration Police, Fernandez was forced to cook and clean every day from 6 A.M. until 11 P.M. The complaint also states that she was forbidden to leave the family's north Tel Aviv home who employed her without the consent of her diamond merchant employer, who had confiscated her passport and rarely let her leave.

Fernandez's salary was allegedly paid only once a year, and did not go to her. Instead, the complaint states, the $200 per month she earned was sent directly to her brother in India.

Police questioned the employer, also an Indian citizen, but the case was closed because of a lack of public interest. The Hotline appealed against the move.

In the letter to Sharon, Fernandez's attorneys outline the reasons they believe their client deserves the status of a human trafficking victim: Fernandez had to endure the deprivation of freedom, which leads to fear and depression and is common to all victims.

Fernandez, like other victims, requires rehabilitation. The state is obligated to assist in this process by helping her to find decent employment so that she can save money and break the cycle, write the lawyers.

The state should not deport victims of human trafficking while criminal proceedings against the employers are still underway, the letter continues. The lawyers also noted that in November, a law calling to expand the definition of human trafficking passed a first reading in the Knesset. The bill seeks to incorporate the United Nations definition of human trafficking and to stiffen penalties against the trafficker. The bill defines any form of coerced labor as the main component of human trafficking.

The Hotline appealed to the Interior Ministry on Wednesday to determine how Fernandez's employers were permitted to hire a foreign worker, despite the fact that she was not hired as a nurse or a construction worker, the two professions for which work visas are issued.

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