“Whether it comes in the form of a young girl trapped in a brothel,a woman enslaved as a domestic worker,a boy forced to sell himself on the street or a man abused on a fishing boat,the victims of this crime have been robbed of the right to lead the lives they choose for themselves,” Secretary of State John Kerry said.
This is the 14th year the report has been released,and the State Department estimates 20 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide.
The report places each country in one of four tiers. First-tier nations have recognized the human trafficking problem in their countries and meet the minimum standards for fighting human trafficking. Countries in the lowest tier face penalties from the U.S.,including withholding some humanitarian aid,and will face difficulties obtaining aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These penalties will go into effect Oct. 1.
“Some are trying hard,and some aren’t trying hard enough,” Kerry said. “It must end.”
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca,of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons,described the report as the United States’ “note to the world.”
Venezuela,Malaysia and Thailand were downgraded from the Tier 2 watch list to Tier 3. That means that they didn’t make any changes from previous Trafficking in Persons reports. Somalia was labeled as a special case because of the Somali government’s limited reach beyond Mogadishu.
The report cites stories from an investigation by The Guardian that found Thailand’s shrimp industry was run by slave labor. Some of that seafood ended up in American stores.
“Our work has only just begun,” said Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews,director of the government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Countertrafficking Unit at the Ministry of National Security who spoke on behalf of the recipients. “For us,the real learning came from the victims. They taught us what true compassion was.”
Through her activism,Gandhi-Andrews established a method to help her government identify and support victims of human trafficking.
“Modern slavery doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” Kerry said. “It rips and tears at the fabric of rule of law.”
Kerry warned against being mindless consumers because many products for sale in stores may have been made using forced labor. By finding “critical points in the supply chain,” Kerry said consumers can help prevent trafficking.
He recommended the organization Made in a Free World provides information on modern-day slavery and human trafficking as a place to find more information.
Pressure from the U.S. has encouraged some legal changes. Haiti,Papua New Guinea and Seychelles introduced anti-trafficking legislation during the past year,and the Bahamas had its first conviction of a human trafficker in March.
“The fight against modern slavery is deeply personal to me,” Kerry said. “When I was a prosecutor outside of Boston in the 1970s,I worked to put criminals behind bars for rape and sexual assault.”
While the United States was placed in the top tier,the report notes that sex trafficking and forced labor are occurring nationwide. Native Americans,undocumented workers and members of the lesbian,bisexual,gay and transgender community are most at risk for trafficking.
The report calls for increased screening for at-risk populations and more funding for agencies fighting trafficking. Since last year’s report,Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations opened 1,025 investigations involving human trafficking,an increase from 894 the previous year.
Here are some descriptions of countries that had status changes in the trafficking report:
Thailand: downgraded to Tier 3
With an estimated population of 3 million migrant workers,many become a part of the sex trade or end up working in forced labor. Many men from Southeast Asia become indentured servants on fishing boats working 18 to 20 hours a day with little compensation. The State Department recommends the government investigate claims of government complicity and establish a task force to prevent sex trafficking and sex tourism.
Malaysia: downgraded to Tier 3
As in Thailand,many migrant workers come to Malaysia looking for work. Some Malaysian recruitment companies,known as “outsourcing companies” recruit foreign workers and use the workers for cheap,and sometimes unpaid,labor. The Malaysian government didn’t comply with 2012 and 2013 recommendations from the State Department,resulting in the downgrade. All efforts to fight trafficking came from nongovernmental organizations without any government support.
Qatar: downgraded to Tier 2 watch list
Qatar’s economic boom attracted approximately 1.2 million people to the country,and many are now trapped by forced labor. Some of these workers paid fees to obtain jobs,which often lead to becoming trapped by debt. Qatar’s government passed several anti-trafficking laws,but the State Department says the laws haven’t produced results.
Switzerland: upgraded to Tier 1
The report says Roma are in danger of being trafficked in Switzerland,and the government has taken steps to protect them. Since 2011,the government began cracking down on prostitution and on forced labor. Victims of trafficking can get access to multiple social services and government programs. Switzerland received an upgrade because of increased funding for anti-trafficking NGOs and ongoing police crackdowns.
Reach reporter Daniel Wheaton at [email protected] or 202-236-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.