Every year, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children are trafficked across borders worldwide. This is a crime of humanity towards humanity. The trafficking of human beings has no place in a civilized world.
It should outrage every person because it debases our fellow human beings. It should outrage every community because it erodes societies. And it should outrage every nation because it funds organized crime and threatens public safety.
Like illegal drugs and weapons trading, human trafficking is a multibillion dollar industry that feeds criminal organizations. It takes place in almost every corner of the world and is one of the fastest growing criminal activities.
One victim of this crime is Yana. Born in Ukraine, Yana was smuggled across the Egyptian border and into Israel in 2005. For years, Yana was exploited as a sexual slave and sold between trafficking networks as though she were an object and not a person.
As soon as Yana saw the opportunity to escape, she seized it and returned home to Ukraine. When her captors were caught, Yana travelled to Israel to testify as a witness at their trial. She also provided testimony on behalf of other victims who had been trafficked across the Egyptian border. Yana displayed tremendous courage when she agreed to return to Israel to ensure her captors were prosecuted and other women wouldn’t have to suffer like she did.
Like Yana, millions around the world have endured the unspeakable horror of human trafficking. We can no longer allow this suffering to continue unchallenged. The fight against human trafficking is a fight for human rights. Every decent person and responsible nation must undertake this fight.
The fight against human trafficking is a priority for the Government of Israel. We are a party to the Palermo Protocol. In fact, we are so supportive of these two “P”s - Palermo Protocol - that we are combating human trafficking through three other “Ps” - prevention, prosecution and protection.
First is prevention. We introduced tough anti-trafficking legislation in 2006 and adopted a national plan of action. Uprooting the plague of trafficking and slavery requires partnership at all levels, so we appointed a national Anti-Trafficking Coordinator to coordinate efforts between government and NGOs.
Second is prosecution. We invested in our intelligence and law enforcement communities to identify trafficking networks, prosecute perpetrators and enforce tough sentences. We also require convicted traffickers to provide financial compensation to victims.
Third is protection. We have introduced a network of services to help locate trafficked persons and provide victims with support. They are given a safe place to stay, free legal aid and the medical and psychological support they need to begin their rehabilitation. We also initiated a program to recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution in the battle against human trafficking.
Ten years ago there were approximately 3,000 cases of human trafficking in Israel. Today, there are only a handful of cases.
But even one case, is one too many.
Our success is largely thanks to the valuable partnerships we have formed with NGOs. They are critical in every phase of the process – from locating victims to educating them about their rights to ongoing rehabilitation. If not for the efforts of civil society, Israel would not have been able to almost eliminate human trafficking.
In addition to our work at home, we are active in the international community sharing our expertise. We have partnered with the International Organization for Migration to monitor trafficking networks and put predators where they belong - behind bars.
I would also like to commend UNODC for their leadership in this field. Israel is proud to collaborate with and contribute to UNODC to advance global efforts for this important human rights issue.
This August, Israel with our international partners, will host an international seminar on trafficking human beings. We expect this initiative will expand the global network of judges to foster cross-border collaboration and the exchange of information.
Trafficking preys on those without a voice. We must be the voice for the man who was lured by the promise of a higher paying job, but ended up toiling in hard labor under the threat of violence.
And we must be the voice for the woman who tried to escape poverty, but was locked in servitude; starved and abused, with no means of escape.
And we must be the voice for the child, who was told she would have a better life, but was raped and forced into prostitution.
Every one of us has a responsibility. Every nation must take action by passing strong anti-trafficking laws, strengthening enforcement mechanisms and introducing tougher penalties.
In 2005, when Yana was smuggled into Israel, there were thousands like her who were lured into servitude and prostitution. Today, Israel has almost eradicated the plague of human trafficking. We are at the forefront of the fight and stand ready to share our expertise with other nations.
The international community must unite its efforts to stand up for victims like Yana. We must show them that they are not alone. With our help, they can become not only survivors; they can retake control of their destiny and lead the way for others.
Thank you Mr. President.