June 17, 2009
The 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report on 175 nations is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. Its findings will raise global awareness and spur countries to take effective actions to counter trafficking in persons.
The annual Trafficking in Persons Report serves as the primary diplomatic tool through which the U.S. Government encourages partnership and increased determination in the fight against forced labor, sexual exploitation, and modern-day slavery.
Human trafficking is defined in American law and international agreements as obtaining or maintaining the labor or services of another through force, coercion, and, in effect, modern slavery. In the introduction to the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in part:
The ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report sheds light on the faces of modern-day slavery and on new facets of this global problem. The human trafficking phenomenon affects virtually every country, including the United States. In acknowledging America’s own struggle with modern-day slavery and slavery-related practices, we offer partnership. We call on every government to join us in working to build consensus and leverage resources to eliminate all forms of human trafficking. This year, there is new urgency in this call. As the ongoing financial crisis takes an increasing toll on many of the world’s migrants – who often risk everything for the slim hope of a better future for their families – too often they are ensnared by traffickers who exploit their desperation. We recognize their immense suffering, and we commit to aiding their rescue and recovery.
As we move forward to meet the challenges of today, I am committed to sharing the lessons learned from our past efforts, and I offer our collective expertise to collaborate with you in bringing relief to victims, justice to perpetrators, and hope to future generations currently in peril.
Bringing an end to the global trade in people is a priority for the United States in keeping with American values that place a premium on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. I am confident that together we can make a difference, all over the world, in the lives of people deprived of their freedom.
One of the things that we find very important, and that I certainly can’t stress enough, is that the fight against human trafficking is something that was established in the Clinton Administration through the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which is something that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton worked very hard on. It was a bipartisan law, and it had bipartisan effect. In fact, it was something that the Bush Administration was very committed to working on once they came in, and the same is true of the Obama Administration.
I think today’s press event upstairs, the cable that the Secretary is sending to the diplomatic corps here in the United States and abroad is something that is a marker as far as not just a continuation of the commitment of the Bush Administration to fighting human trafficking and modern slavery, but an intensification on the part of Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration.
I think that that’s something that those of us who have worked in the field, whether it’s here at the State Department, people like myself who have been federal prosecutors out investigating the cases, working with the NGOs, I think that’s something that we’re seeing a lot of positive response to from the anti-trafficking community worldwide. And I think that we’re going to hopefully see an improvement in the coming year as far as the counter-trafficking response.
Two things that I would like to leave you with, and one of which is the notion that because we are in a time of economic crisis, and especially workers, especially foreign guest workers are particularly vulnerable because of the way in which recruitment is often – is too often done, we see a problem in the guest worker programs both abroad and here in the United States, and a number of the tier rankings are affected by countries having large guest worker programs that do not have any safeguards built into them.
We saw this in the United States in our territorial possession of Saipan, which had its own guest worker laws in the 1990s. Those guest worker laws have now been overturned by Congress last year. But one of the situations that we saw there is exactly what replicates itself in too many countries around the world, which is the notion that the first step that the boss has when dealing with labor unrest, when dealing with people who are asking just for minimum amounts of food or minimum amounts of pay, the notion that they would withdraw their sponsorship, have the persons deported, cut off any labor activism, cut off any attempts to try to make the workplace better by punishing the workers who would dare to speak back.
That punishment should not be something that the government in any way is complicit in. And yet, guest worker programs both here in the United States and abroad far too often have been used in that manner. The United States passed a law, the Trafficking Reauthorization Act, in December, in which we actually addressed that situation. And one of the recommendations in the Attorney General’s annual report is that we do a top-down review of our guest worker programs to see if there are additional protections that need to be put into place. And we would certainly encourage other countries as well to do that same type of review of their guest worker programs.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not about administrative responses, it’s not about structural responses; it’s about the fact that this is a crime. It is one of the most serious crimes that is out there. The slavery and involuntary servitude that the traffickers hold their victims in is something that cannot simply be remedied by having different immigration structures, by having labor inspectors, by having different policies about various things. Rather, it can only be dealt with by investigating and prosecuting the people who dare to do this.
And so we certainly stand ready, not just abroad but also at home, for those countries who would like to engage, for those countries who are willing to do the same type of self-assessment that we did in the Attorney General’s report which was also released today, where we look at what are the strengths, what are the weaknesses of the United States Government’s response. For those countries who are willing to engage in that type of partnership, the trafficking office here at the State Department, the Justice Department and the rest of the U.S. Government stands ready to partner.
Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’ (TVPA) minimum standards.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards,but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
TIER 2 WATCH LIST
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND:
a) The absolute number of victims of sever forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; or
b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or
c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Abu Seman said the Malaysian government did not condone human trafficking and had taken stern action to deal with the problem, including enacting an anti-human trafficking law in 2007 and setting up a special task force.
The report said that while the Malaysian government took early steps to fight sex trafficking, it has yet to fully tackle labour trafficking.
It said there were "credible allegations", including those in a US Senate report this year, that some immigration officials took part in trafficking and extorting refugees from Myanmar.
Malaysia, which is listed with 16 other countries, including six newly-added African nations, could face sanctions such as the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade related US aid.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said recently his country was being used as a transit point for illegal immigrants.
Recent incidents include the arrests of 17 Iraqis and seven Indonesians over the weekend after authorities intercepted a boat that was trying to smuggle some of them to Australia via Indonesia.
Authorities have said 12 suspected illegal immigrants were drowned off Malaysia's southern coast in the last two months when they tried to sneak out of the country.
According to the 2009 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report for the Philippines, the country was put on Tier 2 Watch List because the government failed to show evidence of progress in convicting human traffickers, particularly those in labor trafficking. The report added the situation here worsened, despite the significant government efforts.
The report described the country as a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A significant number of Filipino men and women who migrate abroad for work were also subjected to involuntary servitude in Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Palau, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, the report added.
Even Muslim girls from Mindanao were being trafficked to the Middle East by other Muslims, according to the report.
Filipino women were also trafficked abroad for commercial sexual exploitation, primarily to Hong Kong Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and countries in Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe.
The government vowed to intensify its campaign against human trafficking in light of the US report.
“We have to advise authorities, like the Bureau of Immigration, to be on look out for such activity [human trafficking],” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said. “We won’t tolerate human trafficking and BI should be alerted to be more focused in monitoring not just in the port of Manila but also in Davao, Cebu and Zamboanga.”
He added that he does not believe that the US government would sanction the Philippines for failing to effectively address human- trafficking issues in the country.
“We’re a sovereign state, and we have own laws and legal system,” Ermita said. “I don’t suppose we can be sanctioned if we feel under sovereign state to undertake violations of law like trafficking we can’t be dictated upon. They should respect our sovereignty.”
The Obama administration views the fight against human trafficking, at home and abroad, as an important priority on our foreign policy agenda. The United States funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries, as well as 42 domestic task forces that bring state and local authorities together with nongovernmental organizations to combat trafficking. But there is so much more to do.
The criminal networks that enslave millions of people cross borders and span continents. Our response must do the same. The United States is committed to building partnerships with governments and organizations around the world, to finding new and more effective ways to take on the scourge of human trafficking. We want to support our partners in their efforts and find ways to improve our own.
Human trafficking flourishes in the shadows and demands attention, commitment and passion from all of us. We are determined to build on our past success and advance progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Together, we must hold a light to every corner of the globe and help build a world in which no one is enslaved.