The United States' Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 shows that Myanmar and Latin American countries are making progress in the fight against what it calls "the modern form of slavery."
The report was released in Washington on Tuesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, and Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
At a special briefing after releasing the report, CdeBaca said that the number of victims identified around the world had increased by almost a third, which showed that governments were stepping up and were meeting their obligations. As many as 42,291 trafficking victims were identified and helped last year.
Myanmar was considered as a country of state-sponsored forced labor, and its people going up to China for sex trafficking or to Thailand for sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
CdeBaca said that over the last year, the government in Myanmar had taken a number of significant and unprecedented steps in advancing reforms in fighting human trafficking.
"As a result, we've seen improved protection measures for victims who've come back from other countries," she told reporters. A law was repealed, so there was no longer state-sponsored forced labor that was legal in Myanmar.
Five countries in Latin America have improved their ranking, and there is a trend in the region to better fight the traffic of persons. And for the first time Nicaragua is placed in Tier 1 of the report. This year, the Government of Nicaragua convicted nine traffickers. Venezuela was removed from the Tier 3 part of the report, while Haiti was removed from the category of special cases.
The report lists countries onto four tiers: Tier 1 is a level of a country that is complying with the minimum standards to combat trafficking in persons; Tier 2 lists countries that are not yet compliant but is taking great strides; Tier 2 Watch List comprises countries that are in danger of falling down to Tier 3; and Tier 3 is a grouping of countries that are not complying with any of the minimum standards and is not working towards that.
This year's report has 17 countries on Tier 3, 42 on Tier 2 Watch List, 93 on Tier 2, and 33 on Tier 1.
The report expressed concern over state-supported forced labor in North Korea, as well as increased labor exporting of North Koreans to regions such as the Middle East and Russia. When the North Koreans send workers overseas, they send the police with them and keep them under surveillance and retaliate against them if they try to fight for their rights or if they try to leave, the report noted.
The report says the United States continues to see the situation of forced labor/human trafficking in North Korea as very grave. The United States is required to vote no in the international financial institutions when countries are on Tier 3 of the trafficking report.
CdeBaca said the number of victims identified by governments last year had increased by 28 percent -- from 33,113 in 2011 to 42,291 in 2012. Convictions are up by 10 percent - from 3,619 to 3,969.
Last year saw 7,909 prosecutions initiated as opposed to the year before, which was 6,017 prosecutions initiated. As per the ILO, the number of people who are in modern slavery in the world is estimated at at least 21 million. There are other researchers that put the number as high as 27 million.
This year, Tier 2 has got bigger with 93 as opposed to 85 last year, which means that countries are passing laws.
A total of 186 countries that appear in the report received rankings under the minimum standards, except Somalia, which does not have a functioning government.
But CdeBaca noted that even in Somalia, there are heroes of the anti-trafficking fight, particularly a recent prosecution that was brought in Puntland, shows that even in countries where there is not a functioning government, the legal system and others can work together to bring traffickers to justice.
At a ceremony held at the State Department, Clinton honored ten heroes of the anti-trafficking fight from different parts of the world, from Argentina to the United States, from Mauritania to Israel, from Greece to the Republic of the Congo.
The honorees included a nun who works with human trafficking victims in the Sinai, a young man who was enslaved for three years on the fishing fleet in Southeast Asia and now raising awareness of labor exploitation in the fishing industry, and a woman who was the first female lawyer in Mauritania, and in the last five years has been able to obtain legislation for the first time outlawing slavery in that country.
Speaking on the occasion, Clinton said the report gives "a clear and honest assessment of where all of us are making progress on our commitments and where we are either standing still or even sliding backwards" in fighting this modern form of slavery.
Clinton recollected that during her visit to the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, she met several young women from the United States who had been working with organizations, NGOs, and the faith community, trying to help protect victims of human trafficking in the city.
Both under the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and under the United Nations Palermo Protocol, human trafficking is defined as slavery.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org