ATEST Applauds State Department Decision to Hold States Accountable in Newest Human Trafficking Report
Washington, D.C. — The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) praised Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s downgrading of countries that continue to fail to address human trafficking in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released today.
The TIP Report ranks governments worldwide, including the United States, into one of three tiers based on their efforts to combat and prevent human trafficking, forced labor and other forms of modern slavery. Many countries have improved their efforts to fight human trafficking to avoid the lowest ranking and accompanying sanctions.
“The TIP Report is a critical tool in combating modern slavery, and the decision to downgrade Thailand and Malaysia demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to the report’s integrity,” said Melysa Sperber, Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of 11 U.S.-based human rights organizations. “The report’s honest assessment should compel the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and other countries with serious human trafficking problems to step up their efforts to fight this horrific human rights crime.”
For the second year, the State Department was required to move six countries off of the Tier 2 Watch List by either downgrading them to Tier 3 or granting them Tier 2 status. Advocates feared poor performing countries Thailand and Malaysia would receive a “pass” due to sensitive geopolitical relationships; however, they received a downgrade to Tier 3. Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad and Maldives were upgraded to Tier 2. For the fifth year in a row, the U.S. received a top Tier 1 ranking. ATEST believes there are still serious gaps in the U.S. response to human trafficking.
“The United States must lead by example but unfortunately we don’t see an aggressive, well-funded effort that is on par with the scope of the human trafficking problem within our own borders,” said Sperber. “We need a larger federal investment and better policy solutions to keep child trafficking victims out of jail, to ensure boys and girls in the child welfare system are not vulnerable to becoming victims, to provide critical emergency and long-term support services that will help survivors of modern slavery recover from the trauma and abuse they suffered, and address the particular vulnerability of temporary migrant workers to trafficking by labor recruiters.”
ATEST is calling on the U.S. Government to increase funding and improve policies to:
- Stop treating victims as criminals. Children are arrested for prostitution and put in jail or juvenile detention facilities instead of receiving the services they need and deserve as victims of a horrendous crime;
- Provide services to all victims. Too many trafficking survivors aren’t getting timely access to the most basic emergency services such as shelter beds and medical care; even more are losing support services well before they are able to recover from such a traumatic crime;
- Improve the child welfare system. Research conducted by states shows that children in the child welfare system are at significant risk of being trafficked for both labor and sex trafficking;
- Protect our visa system from fraudulent foreign labor recruiters. An absence of oversight has resulted in the failure to prevent foreign labor brokers from luring men and women under our temporary visa programs into forced labor situations in domestic work, construction, restaurant/hospitality, agriculture, sex trade, and other industries in the U.S.;
- Ensure slave-free commerce. Current policies do not guarantee that the United States government and companies doing business in the U.S. have forced labor-free supply chains or even require transparency about their efforts to prevent human trafficking.
ATEST is also calling on Congress to make the fight against human trafficking a higher priority by elevating the State Department Trafficking in Persons Office (J/TIP) to the status of Bureau so that its leaders can leverage their expertise on modern slavery with greater authority and impact.
Several ATEST members weighed in on the release of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report:
“The heinous persistence of slavery demands accountability against a rigorous set of standards. Secretary Kerry and the State Department are to be commended for holding to account those governments that neglect their responsibilities and for publicly lauding the heroes who are battling this scourge. We urge President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the Congress to now mobilize the level of U.S. resources and political leadership equal to the challenges outlined in the TIP Report,” said Maurice I. Middleberg, Executive Director, Free the Slaves
“The TIP report is one step, but if the U.S. is going to do everything it can to stop human trafficking, it has to start with basic data abut the problem. We still don’t have a good baseline study measuring the number of children who are victims of sex trafficking. Nor are there numbers for labor trafficked victims. It is appalling that the U.S. still cannot answer “how many victims are there?” Until the U.S. knows the scope of its own problem, it won’t be able to effectively fight trafficking,” said Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT USA.
“While the TIP report is an effective diplomatic tool in the fight against modern-day slavery, more can be done to protect slaves and trafficking victims worldwide. Elevating the TIP Office to a full-fledged State Department Bureau not only strengthens the integrity of this critical tool, but it elevates the interests of these most vulnerable people in the world. Congress can make this happen at no additional cost to taxpayers by passing the bi-partisan Human Trafficking Prioritization Act without delay,” said Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy at human rights agency International Justice Mission.
“The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report is a critical tool in the global fight against modern slavery and puts necessary pressure on governments to take a hard look at their efforts to stop human trafficking. The TIP Report shows us that the global safety net is currently too weak to quickly and effectively provide all survivors with the help they need. A robust response network is needed that can truly reach victims, help survivors rebuild their lives, hold traffickers accountable, and push the world closer to eradicating modern slavery,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project.
“It’s vital that the United States diligently evaluates our own efforts to address human trafficking as part of the global community. We look forward to seeing how the Federal Strategic Action Plan released last January will make a greater impact on assisting survivors of human trafficking,” said Kay Buck, Executive Director, Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST).
The Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST) is a diverse alliance of U.S.-based human rights organizations that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. ATEST was founded by Humanity United in 2007. For more information, visitwww.EndSlaveryandTrafficking.org.
The TIP report ranks countries into one of three tiers based on their level of compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) [View methodology.]