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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Israel News : Uzbekistan, singled out by Immigration Police last month for hindering the deportation of prostitutes, lashed out at Israeli authorities

Israel News : Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
The embassy of Uzbekistan, singled out by Immigration Police last month for hindering the deportation of prostitutes, lashed out at Israeli authorities and blamed them for the delays in repatriating Uzbek victims of women trafficking.

Immigration Police can take over a week to report the arrest of women to the embassy and then wait to hand over embassy-issued traveling papers, keeping many women needlessly in jail for four to six weeks instead of the week or two it should take to identify the women and process their papers, according to Sirojiddin Yahshilikov, head of the embassy's consular section.

"Usually they give us the papers late," he said, explaining that his office cannot begin issuing proper traveling papers for the women – who usually arrive in Israel on fake passports – until it has all the details from police in order to verify their citizenship.

He pointed to two women currently being held by Israel who were arrested on July 6, but whose records were only passed onto the embassy on Monday. In another recent case, a women was issued a traveling certificate on June 4, but deported only on June 24.

"Why was she waiting three weeks for deportment with the paper that allows her to travel back to Uzbekistan?" Yahshilikov asked.

The police defended their record. "We transfer the documents as soon as we can," said Immigration Police spokeswoman Supt. Orit Friedman, who explained that there can be delays in returning women to Uzbekistan due to the flight schedule.

"If there is only one flight a week, sometimes they have to wait a week," she said.

But Rita Chakin, who coordinates the anti-trafficking project at Isha L'Isha, the Haifa Feminist Center, agreed that the police drag their feet.

"We have problems with the immigration police because of their bureaucracy," she said. "Instead of a couple of days, it can take a week."

Isha L'Isha is just one of several NGOs, government officials, and police representatives to have participated in seminars that the embassy now holds once every six weeks in order to discuss and better manage the process.

Chakin praised the unique seminars and recommended that other embassies follow Uzbekistan's example.

The embassy also recently met individually with the immigration police and received a positive response, according to Yahshilikov.

Yahshilikov said the proactive stance is a reflection of his government's increased attention women trafficking after the US State Department's report on the issue gave the country low marks. Additionally, a new program in Uzbekistan sends envoys to high schools to deter girls from running away in the first place.

In January, the Uzbek government established a special unit for identifying women arrested abroad and issuing travel documents, cutting down the wait from one or even two months, to closer to a week.

"There's been a very big improvement at the embassy in processing documents," Friedman noted. "The relationship between the embassy and immigration administration is now good."

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