Monday, June 24, 2013

Understanding the US Trafficking in Persons Report

What is it?

There has been significant controversy over the latest report released by the U.S. State department. Several countries who have been downgraded (most notably Russia and China) reject the report and deem in unfair, stating that the U.S. is trying to advance its own international policy. But what is this report that has created so much controversy?
Here's Secretary of State John Kerry's introduction here:

The Trafficking in Persons report is the U.S. Government's main tool to engage foreign governments on the issue of trafficking; it is meant to facilitate global conversation on trafficking and key human rights and law enforcement issues. The US Government uses the report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms, to combat trafficking, and to target resources on prevention, protection, and prosecution programs.

What factors does the State Department look at?

The Department of State places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments' efforts to comply with the "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking" found in Section 108 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Some factors that the US looks at are
  1. Whether the government investigates and prosecutes acts of human trafficking
  2. Whether the government actually convicts and sentences perpetrators of human trafficking
  3. Whether the punishment adequately represents the severity and nature of the crime
  4. Does the government protect victims of human trafficking
  5. Does the government encourage the victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases
  6. Does the government provide adequate legal remedies to victims of human trafficking, such as not deporting them back to countries in which they continue to be victimized
  7. Does the government not unfairly incarcerate or fine victims of trafficking
  8. Does the government adequately train law enforcement officials in regards to human trafficking cases
  9. Had the government adopted measures to inform and educate the public about human trafficking

  1. Has the government adopted measures that identifies and protects potential human trafficking victims
  2. Has the government adopted measures to ensure that its nationals who are abroad on peacekeeping missions do not engage in trafficking.
  3. Does the government cooperate with other governments on measures to prosecute and investigate incidents of human trafficking
  4. Does the Government extradite individuals who are guilty of trafficking
  5. Whether the government monitors immigrant populations who are potential targets for human trafficking
  6. Progress of the government's efforts to prevent human trafficking
  7. If the government of the country has made several and sustainable efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and participation in international sex tourism by nationals of the country

A sampling of Countries

  • United States- Tier 1- source, transit, and destination for victims of trafficking. Often immigrants are targeted for labor trafficking, and children in welfare system for sex trafficking
  • United Kingdom- Tier 1- Source, transit, and destination for victims. Majority of victims are from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Increased trafficking of sex trafficking victims from Latvia.
  • France- Tier 1- mainly destination and transit centers for victims of trafficking
  • Canada- Tier 1- destination, source, and transit center. Children in welfare system are at high risk for trafficking
  • Russia- Tier 3- source, destination and transit center. Over 1 million reported cases of victims who work in forced labor situations. 
  • China- Tier 3- Source, transit, and destination for many trafficking victims. Most trafficking victims come from neighboring countries, although there are many cases of forced labor trafficking from within China.
  • Cambodia- Tier 2- Source, transit, and destination. Ramifications from internal conflict creates unstable environments that put victims at particular risk.

  • Laos- Tier 2- Mainly source, often trafficked to neighboring countries
  • Philippines- Tier 2- mainly source in sex and labor trafficking. Case workers are worried about an increase in labor trafficking. There are many instances of involuntary servitude. Skilled workers, such as nurses and engineers, are getting trafficked for free labor in neighboring countries
  • India- Tier 2, source, destination, and transit area. NGO workers are concerned about the increase that they are seeing
  • Thailand- Tier 2, Source, destination, and transit area. 2-3 million workers are in situations of forced labor. Thailand is also a known destination for international sex tourism, creating an environment that encourages sex trafficking
  • Burma- Tier 2. Due to the recent conflict and revolution, there are numerous refugees who are prime targets for trafficking. Burmese army has also been cited as forcing families into forced labor, and trafficking individuals
  • Japan- Tier 2. Mainly destination. Quite a few instances of labor trafficking, often women are brought into the country and told that they are being married to Japanese men, instead are forced into trafficking. The Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime leaders, are responsible for most of the trafficking
  • Malaysia- Tier 2. Destination and source for labor and sex trafficking. Women are often told that they are being hired for legitimate hotel and other hospitality industry jobs, and are instead forced into sex trafficking.
  • Indonesia- Tier 2, major source of trafficking, for both sex and labor trafficking.


Both China and Russia have disputed their Tier 3 ranking. A foreign ministry spokeswoman said "We believe that the US side should take an objective and impartial view of China's efforts and stop making unilateral or arbitrary judgments of China," while a Russian statement read "As far as the application of unilateral sanctions against Russia concerned... the very idea of raising this issue causes indication."

The reason for this downgrade is that no country can stay stagnant on Tier 2 of the watch list according to a 2008 law; they have to either be upgraded or downgraded.

Jasmine Prokscha

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