14 Nations Named Worst Human Trafficking Offenders

Nov 24, 2008

This month, the United States government named 14 countries – including allies Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – to its list of worst offenders on human trafficking. The State Department has determined that these “Tier 3” nations are not making significant efforts to combat trafficking. They may be subject to sanctions by the U.S. government.

The fact that 14 nations were put in Tier 3 this year is slight progress; the State Department put 16 nations on the Tier 3 list last year. In addition to the four U.S. gulf allies named above, the 2008 Tier 3 nations are: Algeria, Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Moldova, Myanmar, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan and Syria.

The 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report also names 40 nations to the Tier 2 Watch List, meaning they are in danger of falling into Tier 3.

“For the last four years, the weak performance of several nations in the Persian Gulf has been a matter of great concern and disappointment,” said Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. “Saudi Arabia, for example, is ranked Tier 3 for the fourth time. As an update, I’m happy to report that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain continue to make significant improvements; notably the United Arab Emirates as a model in the region.” Bahrain, Equatorial Guinea, Malaysia, Uzbekistan and Venezuela all improved from Tier 3 in 2007 to the Tier 2 Watch List this year.

This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report identifies five trends as exacerbating the worldwide crisis in human trafficking: weak prosecution of labor trafficking offenses; weak trafficking victim protection; forced labor creeping into new growth industries; domestic servitude; and closing a window of vulnerability for migrant workers.

“Although more countries are addressing sex trafficking through prosecution and convictions, the petty tyrants who exploit their laborers rarely receive serious punishment,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in releasing the report. “We see this as a serious shortcoming and, as we move our efforts forward, we and our allies must remember that a robust law enforcement response is essential.”

The report says that approximately 800,000 people a year are trafficked across borders, and millions more are trafficked within their own countries. Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls, and up to half are minors.

“The United States stands ready to work with our partners around the world to expose the evil of human trafficking,” Secretary Rice 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. Together I believe this movement of governments, civil society, and brave individuals of conscience can rescue, rehabilitate, and restore the lives of those who have been treated as less than human.”

The report defines human trafficking as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is not yet 18 years old; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

It examines 170 nations, assessing 153 of them and noting that more information is needed on another 17. To read the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report, visit

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