UNT political science doctoral student receives Fulbright to study human trafficking record in Israel

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 21:56

DENTON (UNT), Texas — After being ranked for years by the U.S. Department of State as one of the worst offenders of human trafficking in the world, Israel now scores in the top tier of countries considered to be in full compliance with anti-trafficking standards.

Factors that account for this change and its impact on the region have not been studied extensively until now. Christine Balarezo, a doctoral student of political science at the University of North Texas, has been awarded a 20-month post-doctoral Fulbright U.S. Student Grant to research Israeli government anti-trafficking policies and strategies at the University of Haifa in Israel beginning in January. Balarezo specializes in comparative politics and international relations with a focus on human rights.

“Israel is doing something right in the fight against human rights violations, yet few case studies or quantitative data exist to elucidate their efforts in enforcing laws, protecting victims and convicting traffickers,” she said. “By bringing this information to light, I hope to provide a foundation for effective policy solutions and recommendations not only for Israel, but for national governments throughout the region.”

Human trafficking involves the forced enslavement and exploitation of men, women and children for labor and sex. Israel has been a transit and destination country for the trafficking of people coming primarily from South Asia, Eastern Europe and also the Persian Gulf countries, said Balarezo,

Each year, the U.S. Department of State publishes a Trafficking in Persons Report that rates countries on how well they are addressing human trafficking. Since 2001, Israel’s rank has steadily climbed from Tier 3 to Tier 1 — from “non-compliance with minimum anti-trafficking standards” to “full compliance.” All other countries in the region have maintained rankings of Tier 2 or 3, with some additionally flagged as “Watch List” for egregious activity. Balarezo will examine factors that account for Israel’s improvement in anti-trafficking, including its record of prosecution, protection and prevention. 

While at the University of Haifa, Balarezo will interact with faculty from the School of Political Science; the National Security Studies Center; the Center for the Study of Crime, Law and Society; the Center for Research on Peace Education; the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies; and scholars within the human rights community in Israel. She will also interview government officials, immigration officers and individuals involved in security and task force operations. The university archives — one of the most advanced and well-equipped libraries in Israel — will provide her with access to scholarly texts, articles, and other resources.

Balarezo grew up in Westport, Conn., and Oldsmar, Fla. She will receive her doctoral degree in political science in December 2013. She aspires to combine her love of researching and teaching political science with consulting for local, regional and international organizations.


About the UNT Department of Political Science

The Department of Political Science is divided into four major areas with a strong focus on rigorous and careful research methods: American Government, International Relations, Comparative Politics and Political Theory. The department is the editorial home of the American Political Science Review, the premier political science journal in the world. It houses the Castleberry Peace Institute within its Peace Studies program, and the Human Security, Democracy and Global Development research cluster, a consortium of faculty experts focused on conflict resolution strategies, the protection of human rights and the promotion of economic development, health and neighbor relations. 

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