More Nations Cited for Trafficking

Approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across borders around the world each year, with 14,500 to 17,500 trafficked across the U.S. border. Worldwide, four in five trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to half are minors, the U.S. State Department’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report finds. This year’s report adds seven countries, including four Arab nations that are allies to the United States, to its list of worst offenders.

The report warns that progress to stop human trafficking has stalled. “Prosecutions have leveled off everywhere,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “In some cases, there are countries with major human trafficking problems, but only a couple of traffickers have been brought to justice. This cannot and must not be tolerated.”

2007 Trafficking in Persons highlights the use of debt as a tool of coercion. Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, senior advisor on the report, said trafficked victims are often enticed by fraudulent work offers that require steep up-front payments, and then workers are trapped into paying exorbitant fees for years. For instance, trafficking victims forced to work as prostitutes can be assessed daily fees for rent in a brothel, food, drugs and even condoms. Debt ties these victims to bondage.

The State Department lists 16 countries in Tier 3 this year – nations that are not making significant efforts to combat human trafficking and may be subject to sanctions by the U.S. Algeria, Bahrain, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman and Qatar were added to Tier 3 this year. Lagon notes that some of them are “wealthy countries in the Near East that aren’t lacking adequate resources to make significant progress.” The Tier 3 list already included Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela. Tier 3 has grown “due to a lack of effort by these governments to combat this serious transnational crime,” Lagon said.

The Tier 2 Watch List, containing weak Tier 2 countries that are failing to make significant efforts to abort human trafficking and are thus in danger of falling into Tier 3, includes 32 countries again this year. Armenia, China and South Africa are on the Watch List for the third consecutive year, while India, Mexico and Russia are on it for the fourth.

The new report outlines a short-term action plan because, Lagon says, the “Tier 2 Watch List is not supposed to become a parking lot for governments lacking the will or interest to stop exploitation and enslavement on their soil.” The U.S. stands, “ready to cooperate with these nations and support any efforts they make to end this travesty within their borders,” he added.

“We hope this report encourages responsible nations across the globe to stand together to speak with one voice and to say that freedom and security are non-negotiable demands of human dignity, and to say as President Bush has, no one is fit to be a master and no one deserves to be a slave,” Secretary Rice said.

Trafficking in Persons looks at a total of 164 countries and territories, comprising about 85 percent of the world, and ranks countries and territories into three tiers based on concrete government actions against human trafficking. “The common denominator of trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for profit,” the report says. A person can be subject to labor and sexual exploitation, coercion can be violent and/or psychological, and it can be used to establish illegal or illegitimate debt.

The full report is available at www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/.

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