2019 Trafficking in Persons Report Released
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has released the 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which assesses government efforts around the world to combat human trafficking and highlights strategies to address this crime and protect the victims. This year’s report, the 19th installment, includes narratives for 187 countries and territories, including the U.S.
The prevalence of human trafficking is difficult to measure. However, a number of international organizations have estimated that traffickers exploit a majority of human trafficking victims without moving them from one country to another. For example, the ILO estimated that traffickers exploit 77 percent of all victims in the victims’ countries of residence. Likewise, UNODC reported in 2018 that, for the first time ever, a majority of victims had been identified in their countries of citizenship, stating: “While transnational trafficking networks are still prevalent and must be responded to through international cooperation, national justice measures, strategies and priorities should acknowledge the increasingly national nature of the trafficking problem.”
The same UNODC report also found that the clear majority of traffickers were citizens of the countries where they were convicted. Frequently, human trafficking within a country is found in sectors that are common nearly everywhere, such as the commercial sex industry and others like farming, construction, manufacturing, and mining. However, examples vary greatly:
Traffickers in Brazil, under the guise of religious mandates, exploit Brazilian victims in forced labor, including on farms and in factories and restaurants, after the victims join certain churches or religious cults.
In Cambodia, a lack of jobs leads some women and girls to leave their homes in rural areas to try to find work in tourist destination cities. In many cases, traffickers exploit them in sex trafficking, including in massage parlors, karaoke bars and beer gardens.
In Ethiopia, traffickers often deceive parents of children living in rural areas into sending their children to major cities to work as domestic workers. The traffickers promise families that the children will go to school and receive wages for their work, thereby enabling them to send money home.
In India, the government officially abolished bonded labor in 1976, but the system of forced labor still exists. For example, under one scheme prevalent in granite quarries in India, quarry owners offer wage advances or loans with exorbitant interest rates, trapping workers in debt bondage - in some cases for their entire lives.
In the U.K., gangs force British children to carry drugs. According to the U.K. National Crime Agency data in 2017, the largest group of potential victims referred to the National Referral Mechanism was U.K. nationals.
In the U.S., traffickers prey upon children in the foster care system. Recent reports have consistently indicated that a large number of victims of child sex trafficking were at one time in the foster care system.
In Yemen, the ongoing conflict has led to many human rights violations, with many parties using child soldiers. According to a U.N. report, there have been 842 verified cases of the recruitment and use of boys as young as 11 years old.
The report cites trafficking is occurring in the fishing industry for a large number of countries. For example, NGOs continue to report instances of Burmese men transiting Thailand en route to
Indonesia and Malaysia, where traffickers subject them to forced labor, primarily in fishing and other labor-intensive industries. Senior crew aboard Thai-owned and flagged fishing vessels subject some Burmese men to forced labor through debt-based coercion, passport confiscation, threats of physical or financial harm or fraudulent recruitment. They also subject some to physical abuse and force them to remain aboard vessels in international waters for years at a time without coming ashore.
Public perceptions about human trafficking have a major impact on the way governments address it. If well informed about the various forms of human trafficking, the public can be the eyes and ears of their communities and can put pressure on law enforcement to make it a priority.
For example, in Ghana, where forced child labor is prevalent in the fishing industry on Lake Volta, NGOs have worked to change community perceptions so that many now view the use of children in fishing as an illegal activity. Many communities have formed local watchdog groups that know how to identify human trafficking, go door-to-door raising awareness about its harmful effects and report cases to authorities.
In releasing the 2019 report, Pompeo said: “Consider one of the stories documented in this year’s report – the story of a woman from Venezuela who I’ll call Melinda.
“After Maduro came to power, Melinda found herself trapped in poverty and desperate to provide for her family. One day she met a man. She met a man who offered to cover expenses to travel to Spain, where he promised he would find enough work to send money back home so that she could take care of her family and those around her. He then forced her into prostitution and threatened to hurt her daughter if she resisted. So she stayed silent, and after years and much anguish she finally was able to get the police, and a raid finally set her free. I wish that I could stand here this morning and tell you that her story is uncommon.”
Pompeo said that human trafficking is a stain on all of humanity. “Every person, everywhere, is inherently vested with profound, inherent, equal dignity.”
Tier 3 designations – the lowest possible designation – were given once again to China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela, among others. A few countries were added to the Tier 3 list, including Cuba.
However, the report identifies a few success stories, like Senegal, where the government identified a growing problem of child begging rings, ran campaigns to raise awareness among the public, convicted perpetrators and provided care to many victims.
The report is available here.