Fight Against Human Trafficking Loses Ground in 11 Nations

The international fight against human trafficking, from abuses of migrant workers to organized prostitution networks, lost ground in the past year, the U.S. State Department reported.

The number of countries failing to comply with international standards to prevent human trafficking almost doubled to 23, according to U.S. State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons report released today.

“The problem of modern trafficking may be entrenched, and it may seem like there is no end in sight,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement accompanying the report. “But if we act on the laws that have been passed and the commitments that have been made, it is solvable.”

As many as 27 million men, women, and children are “living in a state of modern slavery,” she said.

Since many countries have adopted anti-trafficking laws, the issue increasingly is one of enforcement, Clinton said at a State Department ceremony honoring 10 “heroes” in the fight against such abuses. Clinton, while citing advances in countries such as Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates, said that the overall number of prosecutions worldwide “has remained relatively static.”

Seeking Action

“So the measure of success can no longer be whether a country has passed laws, because so many have in the last decade,” she said. “Now we have to make sure laws are implemented.”

Eleven countries have dropped into so-called Tier 3, those with the poorest record of fighting trafficking, joining 12 nations previously listed in that category under guidelines set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. One country, the Dominican Republic, was elevated from the lowest category because of improvements in its prevention measures.

The ll countries are: Algeria, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Micronesia, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Yemen. They join nations such as Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia with the poorest records on taking action to prevent human trafficking.

Tier 1 is comprised of countries with strong enforcement policies, such as the U.S., U.K., France and Australia. Tier 2 designates countries, such as Mexico, which do not fully comply with standards but are making “significant efforts.”

Watch List

“Tier 2 Watch List” countries such as China, Russia and Thailand promise improvement in light of “significant” number of victims and a failure to show increased efforts to “combat severe forms of trafficking.”

The 11 countries that dropped into the lowest category, Tier 3, “are not making significant efforts” to comply with international standards, including prosecution of those involved in human trafficking, protection of victims, and prevention of future trafficking, the report said. Human trafficking can include a range of abuses including forced labor and prostitution.

Political unrest in Arab countries complicated the issue in countries such as Libya and Yemen, whose government did not provide data for the this year’s report.

Some Improve

Macedonia, recording an increase in trafficking-related convictions, was elevated to Tier 1 from Tier 2. The Slovak Republic made the same shift.

The Dominican Republic was raised to Tier 2 Watch List from Tier 3 because of improved prevention measures under its National Anti-Trafficking Action Plan, the report noted.

A total of 117 nations have committed to fighting human trafficking in accordance with the UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, passed by the General Assembly Nov. 15, 2000.

The State Department report was produced by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which was created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Ambassador Luis C. deBaca, director of the office, said 130 countries have laws prohibiting all forms of human trafficking. The problem extends to the U.S., where estimates of the number of trafficking victims run “as high as 100,000,” including children in prostitution, he said in a telephone briefing June 24.

“There’s been a lot of advances in the last few years,” he said. “But we are concerned that the number of victims identified and the number of traffickers being prosecuted has flattened out around the world.”