Women who return home from Israel after having been trafficked as sex
slaves face tremendous practical and emotional difficulties.
Harsh reality for returning sex slaves
KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) – Tatyana Tatureevych, a social worker here, is
all too familiar with the problems facing women who make it back home
after having been trafficked as sex slaves.
"Most who return from Israel have a lot of problems beyond what they
suffered from trafficking," Tatureevych says. "They're often addicted
to drugs and alcohol. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress or
Although most women from the former Soviet Union who are trafficked as
sex slaves work in Eastern Europe and Arab countries, many also end up
in Israel. According to the Israel Task Force on Human Trafficking, 80
percent of the prostitutes in Israel were brought there against their
Most enter on foot via Egypt, in secret nighttime border crossings,
and are kept in urban brothels without papers as virtual slaves to
The Israeli media is full of stories about "Russian prostitutes," part
of the unsavory element brought into the country since the collapse of
the Soviet Union.
Those who return home, either on their own or through deportation,
face tremendous practical and emotional difficulties.
Tatureevych manages the social programs at the Kiev office of La
Strada, an international anti-trafficking association with branches in
Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. She works closely with the Israeli
women's group Isha L'Isha to keep track of sex slaves that return from
Israel to Ukraine.
After her office is alerted that a woman is being deported, a
representative meets the woman at the Kiev airport to make sure she
doesn't fall into the hands of traffickers again. The victim is taken
to a shelter and given emergency cash and psychological help as needed.
As elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, this work is all done by
In 2006, La Strada helped five trafficked women returning to Ukraine
from Israel. In 2005 they helped 15.
Two were sisters from Donetsk, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine.
They were 18 and 23 when they went to Egypt for jobs promised them by
a man they met in a bar. Instead they were smuggled across the border
into Israel and forced into prostitution.
"They were sold from one brothel to another," Tatureevych relates.
The older sister ran away and was deported back to Ukraine after
Israeli police stopped her for a routine document check. The younger
sister was picked up in a brothel raid in Haifa and also deported. One
returned with a drug habit; the other is now an alcoholic.
"Their family met them when they returned and was supportive,"
Tatureevych says. "Sometimes these women come home and people avoid them."
Israel is trying to combat its growing human trafficking problem. The
U.S. State Department's 2007 Human Trafficking Report noted that
Israel has been "making significant efforts" since being placed on the
Tier 2 "watch list," just short of the level that would trigger sanctions.
Last October, Israel passed an anti-trafficking law prohibiting all
forms of human trafficking, involuntary servitude and slavery. But the
State Department report criticized Israel for not providing adequate
protection services for those affected by these crimes.
A partial solution is to make it harder to get a visa for entering
Udi Ben-Ami, head of the Israeli embassy's consular office in Kiev,
says he's made it a "personal battle" to fight the trafficking problem
in his four years as head of the department that grants Israeli visas
to Ukrainian and Moldovan citizens. He has imposed stringent checks on
the application process, and also initiated a program to train
security staff at Ben Gurion Airport to recognize fake documents.
"People know now that it is not easy to get an Israeli visa," Ben-Ami
says, adding that he has received "tremendous cooperation" from local
non-governmental organizations, as well as from Ukrainian first lady
But he admits his efforts only affect those seeking to enter Israel
legally. As economic troubles continue in Ukraine and throughout the
region, young women continue to believe they can better their
situation abroad. And traffickers are always on the lookout for such prey.
Tatureevych tells of a young woman she helped who had been trafficked
to Israel when she was 20. When she finally made her way home, she
found her relatives had commandeered her apartment and wouldn't let
her back in.
Penniless and without a nuclear family – her parents died when she was
a child, and her only sister had been put in foster care while she was
in Israel – the woman recently told Tatureevych she wants to go back
"She wants to make money," Tatureevych says in exasperation. "She
thinks that now that she knows the country, she'll be able to find a
real job. I told her she can be trafficked again, but she says she has
a friend there, a man who will help her."
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