Release of the 2001 Trafficking In Persons ReportSecretary Powell and Others
Remarks at Special Briefing
July 12, 2001
Other speakers were: Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary, Global Affairs; R. Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement; and Margot A. Sullivan, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, everyone. I am here today to announce the release of the Department of State's first Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, a report mandated by Congress under Public Law 106-386, titled Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of the year 2000.
We hope that this report will help to focus international attention on this abhorrent practice, and galvanize systematic worldwide efforts to combat it. It is incomprehensible that trafficking in human beings should be taking place in the 21st century -- incomprehensible, but it's true, very true. Our report should make it abundantly clear that trafficking is going on all over the world, in both developed and developing countries, even within the United States. It happens in countries where the government violates human rights and in countries where the government's human rights record is generally excellent.
We estimate that at least 700,000 people become victims of trafficking every year. The overwhelming number are women and children who have been lured, coerced or abducted by criminals who trade in human misery and treat human beings like chattel. Deprived of the most fundamental human rights, subjected to threats and violence, victims of trafficking are made to toil under horrific conditions in sweatshops and on construction sites, in fields and in brothels. Women and children, some as young as seven years old, are forced to labor in sex industries where they suffer physical and mental abuse and are exposed to disease, including infection by the HIV virus.
The only way to effectively address the worldwide problem of trafficking is through collective efforts by all countries, whether they are countries of origin, transit or destination, and by being brutally honest about this issue.
On behalf of President Bush, with strong bipartisan support from the United States Congress, and in partnership with a determined NGO community, the United States is taking action against trafficking here at home as well as abroad. In fact, a new interagency task force on trafficking in persons will be established. The task force will use this report and other tools including those provided for in the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, use these tools and the Act to identify what more needs to be done to safeguard the vulnerable, to punish the traffickers, to care for their victims, and to prevent future trafficking.
The United States will work closely with other governments, organizations and concerned people throughout the world to put an end to this abomination against humanity.
And I will turn the podium and lectern over to Under Secretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, whose team compiled the report, and members of the team are here to answer the specific questions you may have. Thank you very much. Paula.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. When the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 was signed into law last October, it signified our government's resolve to combat trafficking in human beings, which is both a significant -- a serious crime, and a grave human rights problem. Given the global reach of this problem, it will take efforts from every country and every society to stop trafficking and provide comprehensive protection for victims. The response must be far-reaching as well. The Act takes this into account, outlining the action needed in areas that include prosecution of perpetrators, protection of victims, and prevention of trafficking.
It is in these three areas that we and others must act -- as the Secretary has said, turn our indignation into positive action. The report is one step in doing that. Let me just say a very brief word about the report itself.
Several parts of the Department, including the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, supported by the Office of the Legal Advisor, the regional bureaus at State, and the intelligence community have worked tirelessly over the past several months to compile a report about countries' actions, or in some cases, inaction to combat this problem and protect victims.
The report is not a discussion of which country has the greatest widespread trafficking problem or where the most number of cases of trafficking exist, but rather it is a review of what governments are doing to fight the problem. This report places those countries that are places of origin, transit or destination for a significant number of victims of severe forms of trafficking into one of three categories, based on their governments' anti-trafficking efforts.
As we compiled this year's report, using all the information available to us, we defined the term "significant number" as in the hundreds or more. The categories are: Tier 1, those countries that comply fully with the standards laid out in the Act; Tier 2, those countries that don't fully comply but are making significant efforts to comply; and Tier 3, those that don't comply and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Our staff has drafted this report in close collaboration with over 185 of our diplomatic posts and after reviewing news media coverage and reports from nongovernmental and international organizations. This report is a tool to help us with other countries, international organizations and NGOs to act against trafficking, a sign to perpetrators and victims that the United States Government is committed to combating trafficking and to protecting the victims. And, finally, it is a basis for action. Identifying the scope of current efforts is a key step to developing an action plan with other countries to combat it effectively.
With those brief remarks, I would like to introduce, and suggest that we all join, Rand Beers, the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, and Margot Sullivan, the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Unfortunately, Lorne Craner, the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, could not be here today. He had to travel to Europe yesterday.
With that, we welcome your questions and comments.
QUESTION: Could you explain why this is suddenly a growing phenomenon, compared with the relatively recent past?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Your point is a very good one. First, this is an issue that has not been addressed vigorously in the past. And, hence, we saw only recently a bipartisan effort in Congress to bring and draw attention to this issue, and to call upon the Administration to act. We have risen to this challenge, to this call, and we hope by the issuance of the report that it will, in fact, have a positive impact ultimately, and hopefully ultimately eradicate trafficking of persons worldwide.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I would add to that that it is important to remember in the context of the development of the Transnational Organized Crime Convention over the last several years, that one of the three protocols of that convention, which was signed in December in Palermo, is a trafficking in persons protocol.
So this Act, which occurred last year, is in part a recognition that is actually quite broader than that in the global community. The trafficking, as one aspect of international organized crime, is an important issue that the world ought to deal with.
QUESTION: There seemed to be a lot of get-out clauses from sanctions in the law. Are you concerned that you will actually be able to enforce or bring about the results you hope to achieve in the report?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: First, the report forms a basis for engagement and dialogue with countries across the globe. And it is in that spirit that we hope that we will be able to sit down and engage in constructive action -- bilaterally, regionally, globally.
I am saying that specifically because you will note that in terms of sanctions, application of sanctions would not be reviewed or looked at until 2003. And we would hope that this report, as I said, would provide the basis and the foundation from which to actually improve the situation and the circumstances here and abroad.
QUESTION: In the methodology, it said that countries normally included when there was credible reporting that provided numbers of victims, presumably in each country. But I see almost no numbers of victims. So there is no sense of where the problem is greatest.
Why did you exclude that information from this public report?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I'll make a comment, and then Randy, if you would like to.
First of all, the methodology employed here is, we followed the minimum standards, to begin with, that was prescribed in the Act. These include: governments should prohibit trafficking and punish acts of trafficking, prescribe punishment commensurate with that for grave crimes, and, then thirdly, for knowing commission of any act of trafficking, the government should prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter, and that government should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate trafficking.
Then there is a subset of that fourth one of seven criteria, and I'll say it only briefly, if I may, because I think these points are important here, as to what was the framework of analysis. The seven points: one is whether the government invigorously investigated and prosecuted acts; two, whether the government protects victims of trafficking; three, whether the government has adopted measures such as public education to take acts to prevent trafficking; whether the government has cooperated with other governments in investigating and prosecuting trafficking; whether the government extradites persons charged with trafficking; whether the government monitors immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking; and whether the government vigorously investigates and prosecutes public officials who participate in trafficking.
In terms of specific numbers, the term "significant numbers," meaning, as I stated in my opening remarks, in the hundreds, is the term that has been used in the basis for operation and for analysis. In a number of cases, when we try to get information about trafficking in some countries, there were figures and data was just not available. And by the way, that is something that we are very committed to finding out more about.
So in some cases, you may not have certain countries listed because there is a need for more information, actually.
Would you like to comment further on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Let me just add one additional comment to that, as the Under Secretary said, in two regards. One, this report is about trying to raise awareness around the world, and get nations together to have dialogue to work to resolve this problem. This is not intended, although there will always be that aspect of it, to point fingers, but it's to start the dialogue. And secondly, we did not want this report to become a basis for comparison within categories of country A, B or C having this many or this few trafficked persons.
What we are trying to do here is create this dialogue. And we didn't feel that those kinds of numbers would be useful in the context, particularly of this first report, where information is still very much in a developmental stage.
QUESTION: Would it be possible to get a list of countries for which you did not have adequate information, so we can make an assessment as to those countries in which the problem was not significant, as opposed to those which you simply did not have information. For example, Kuwait is not included in this. I presume that is because there was inadequate information, as opposed to a conclusion that this was not a significant problem?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: By and large, the countries that are not listed.
QUESTION: Have you had any preliminary contact with some of these countries that are listed in this report, and I'm particularly thinking of US allies such as South Korea, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, they're listed in the same category as Burma and Sudan as Tier 3 countries with regard to trafficking. And what has the response been, as you talk about this sort of constructive dialogue?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Yes, we have had a diplomatic dialogue with a number of countries. I will leave that at that. And in saying that, as I underscored, the spirit of which is to have a basis of dialogue and conversation about this. We see this as an incentive, an incentive where, if there is new information to be presented to take into account, we would very much welcome it, and that's the spirit in which we are approaching this. And that's the context in which the dialogue has taken place.
QUESTION: Have you gotten any kind of -- just to follow up, I mean, has there been any kind of concern that the United States is listing some of these countries, as you pointed out in the beginning, that may have excellent human rights records, in a list of nations that have sex trafficking problems?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: This is the first report being released of this kind, and it certainly will trigger a wide-range dialogue on it across the spectrum. So I think we will have to certainly engage. But I wanted to share with you the context in which we come to the table. That we look at it as a tool and a vehicle from which to engage constructively on this.
QUESTION: Even though this is your first report, obviously the Department has been following the issue. Can you talk about any shift in trends, about you know where source countries have increased, or where transit or destination countries have increased over the last few years, and any trends that you think exist now?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I think that what has happened as a general proposition is that as attention has been shined on this issue, we have become more and more aware of the phenomenon. And it is not just trafficking in persons for purposes of sexual acts. It's indentured servitude, it's debt bondage, it's in some cases slavery.
And as that light has come on this problem, what I think the first comment I would make is, we become more and more aware of how global a problem this is, about how almost every nation has some effect that results from this, either as a source country, a transit country or a destination country. And in some cases, we have countries that are all three of those phenomena.
If you talk about this as a general proposition, then I think you in the press, quite frankly, have been doing a fairly decent job in terms of reporting on areas of this kind of trafficking. And they are not particularly new. We noticed the phenomenon in Southeast Asia, we noticed the phenomenon in South Asia, we noticed the phenomenon in the Persian Gulf area, we noticed the phenomenon in the Newly Independent States, and flows within them and westward to western Europe. We noticed the phenomenon within and out of Africa, and likewise in Latin America. So to say -- it's hard to distinguish because we're learning about this problem to say, is there a shift going on as opposed to how much people are becoming aware of how serious this problem is.
QUESTION: I know you have some detail here. But could you outline basically how this works, particularly how people end up in the United States, what kind of organization it takes? Basically outline the problem.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Basically what happens is, in country X, individuals are approached almost, in some cases, on a want-ad basis, saying, would you like to go to the United States, for example, to work in a modeling agency; would you like to go to the United States to work in any manner of issues. We will help you get there, we will pay for your transit, we will obtain your passport.
And in that context, the control mechanism begins to take place that puts these individuals into a relative bondage situation, because the individuals who are making all of the arrangements are controlling the individuals, often who have no ability to speak the language in the United States. I'm talking here from a model of sexual coercion predominantly. But it is not just that.
We have had Chinese aliens who have come to this country for a number of years who, when they arrive, are immediately put into forced labor situations in which they're -- because their status in this country is illegal to begin with, they are in effect indentured servants in sweatshop or restaurant kinds of trades.
That's the two general kind of phenomenon. But in both cases, what has happened is that as they are in this country, they are in a controlled situation, where the people who bring them in maintain some form of control, either directly or through the subsequent employer who is managing their activity, if you will. And that's not so different as it is a number of places around the world.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: If I may just add, before we go to the next question, all acts of trafficking have a common thread, and that is they occur by fraud, deception, coercion in all of these acts.
QUESTION: If that is the case, then don't you think there's a problem at the US posts overseas? And also at the US borders here? They must be getting fraudulent visas or fraudulent papers?
And also, do you think also the victims are from the human rights victims and also religious persecution? That they want to leave those countries? And what happens to them when they land here in the US?
And finally, how are you working with the UN, if the UN is working on these issues right now? There are a number of other conventions are going on on related issues?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I'll start with the last, if I may. I'll answer two questions. There is the UN protocol, which in fact was the supplement to the convention, the overall Transnational Crime Convention. This UN protocol calls very specifically to punish, prevent, suppress trafficking -- actually is a very important supplement. As Randy had already indicated, that specifically focused on the problem globally of trafficking in persons and outlines, if you will, an overall framework within which one is needed to globally address.
Secondly, forgive me, you had, I know, you also mentioned about the United States. I wanted to say a word because this related to several questions in a way. In the opening of the report, there is a section concerning the United States. We don't rank ourselves. However, we do talk about the problem here, and cite the fact that there are some 45,000 to 50,000 individuals who have been trafficked into the United States, where the United States has been both the transit and destination point.
I am mentioning that because, also, the spirit in which not only we release this, but in which we engage in dialogue, that we need to take steps overall -- corrective measures, corrective steps -- here at home and abroad in addressing that.
Would either of you on the others --
MS. SULLIVAN: I'd just like to mention, in terms of your question, the type of people that are susceptible to trafficking. The type of people that are susceptible to trafficking are often people who are in the worst-case situation, either economically or for a range of issues. They basically want to leave a country; they're looking for a better life. And in their desperation to leave their country, they may fall prey to unscrupulous individuals who of course involve them in trafficking of heinous proportions.
So we are basically dealing with a problem where people are suffering, and they are put into bondage and forced basically to not have a free will. From this perspective, this is a very important problem, not just for our country but for countries worldwide. And this is where we hope to get the cooperation. Because as countries and regions realize that this is happening to their populations, there is a realization that there is also a need to cooperate to a greater degree.
QUESTION: The report notes that trafficking is often found in high density in places where there has been civil war, unrest, natural disasters. Given this fact, what kind of impact on the trade can good-faith efforts by governments have?
Secondly, are you confident that governments are going to act on this in good faith, because many of the areas named in the report are areas where corruption is endemic in the governments? Things like prostitution basically run sometimes from the law enforcement agencies, like Southeast Asia and in Africa.
So is this kind of -- are these good words, or do you think that something good can come out of this report?
MS. SULLIVAN: Yes, I want to attempt to answer your question. As I said, there are a range of countries in each tier. There are countries that are in conflict, there are countries that are democratic, undemocratic -- I mean, this is a global phenomenon, and something that we are attempting to address.
There are some countries that are in conflict that are in fact, in spite of the conflict, attempting to address the issue. I think if you look at some of the countries in the report you will see a spectrum of situations, and that's why we have been very careful to note that we do not compare countries. We look at countries in a sense in terms of their abilities to address the problem. It is not the size of a problem of a particular country, it is the willingness and the ability of the government to address the problem.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I would just add a footnote, if I may. When I went through, and maybe I went through a little bit too rapidly of the seven criteria. One of the seven criteria -- providing as part of the minimum standards -- does entail whether the government vigorously investigates and prosecutes public officials who participate in trafficking and takes all appropriate measures against such officials who condone trafficking. So it is one of the standards being applied.
QUESTION: It's my understanding that we don't rank ourselves. Do you have any information about whether the problem is actually getting worse in terms of the United States being used as a destination country?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I do not. But the Department of Justice and also the Department of Labor may, in fact, have some details of that. Also, the Act calls upon Health and Human Services to also be engaged in this issue in the United States.
And, by the way, the Secretary mentioned the task force. We will be collaborating with all of those agencies that I've just mentioned, and including some others like the United States Agency for International Development.
QUESTION: The Act that you refer to right now has authorized $94 million for various programs to help trafficking victims and also combat the issue. One of the things I'm hearing from law enforcement officials in this country is that there is not a lot of money actually being, not only authorized but actually appropriated, and that there is a frustration in the field among investigators in targeting major trafficking networks coming into this country. I would like to know how you are going to address that or how the issue is going to be addressed.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: I can't speak specifically to the desires of individual law enforcement officers or groups to have more funds. I have found as a general phenomenon in the budget process that everybody is prepared to ask for and accept more funds. I don't mean that to be a glib remark; I simply mean to say that as we build budgets federally, there is always a process of spreading the funding around.
Specifically to that issue, one of the things that we will look at, one of the things that the Secretary's task force will look at, is the very question that you raised, which is are we devoting adequate resources on a national basis, remembering that we are a federal system and that we are talking federally about federal resources. We will have to work with state and local governments as well on this particular issue because, as you well know, not all law enforcement is conducted at the federal level. State and local levels of law enforcement are as important as the federal level in terms of dealing with these kinds of problems which are occurring in communities around the country.
QUESTION: Is there any country that you can cite where you feel that this report has made a difference, where they have said, we are going to change the laws, where they have begun to take action against this?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: As of particularly today, I think it would be a bit premature to say that. However, I would say, as part of this process, when the team from both bureaus and the entire team that has been involved in this engaged our embassies and missions abroad, they in turn engaged players on the ground, meaning NGOs as well as government officials, as well as news media, et cetera. As part of that, and over the months leading up to this, there were a number of cases where, because of the issue being brought to the attention, because of a discussion that took place where there was an acknowledgment of a problem, by the way to begin with, and in addition to that, steps being taken, whether it entails prosecution of traffickers, some preventive measures and protective measures. There have been a number of steps.
You both might want to comment more specifically.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Let me just add one further point. If you look at the country-by-country reports that occur here, and you look at the timing of some legislation that has been recently enacted, that in part is a result of the increasing global attention, which stems in part from the Transnational Organized Crime Convention and the negotiation of the protocol on trafficking in persons.
So in that broad sense, not related to this report, because this is the first report, but in terms of the increasing global awareness, I think that there's more legislative attention. What we are reporting on is implementation more than legislation at this particular point in time. And that's why the report is as it is.
MS. SULLIVAN: Just a very brief comment. When you read the report, you will also note there's some comment on the level of cooperation. And I think that's where you will see a step in the right direction. Because there are a number of countries, a number of regions that seek to cooperate with their neighbors and countries that are either in trafficking transit points or origin points, and that is where we are beginning to see a step in the right direction.
QUESTION: Could I just follow up, Under Secretary? You mentioned that you thought that corrective steps had to be taken in this country. Could you say specifically which corrective steps you think ought to be taken?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I have not personally followed specific steps that need to be taken. But what I did say was the Department of Justice, the domestic agencies, are really in the lead on this -- the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, as well as the Health and Human Services.
Our mandate is specifically looking abroad. But I did want to cite the fact that we do reference, and if you found it in the front of the report, a statement about the situation here. That's why also we will have these other domestic agencies as part of the interagency process.
QUESTION: Randy, this seems in some ways to be almost a carbon copy of the anti-drug law of 1986, except for one thing: there's no reference to the word "certification."
And along those lines -- (laughter) -- that's kind of a hot-button word for many countries around the world. But is there a National Security waiver for countries found not to be in compliance?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Yes.
QUESTION: There is?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Your point on the sanctions part is, I think, an accurate comparison. That very much looks like the drug certification law in terms of what the categories -- what could occur and how it would be implemented and the waiver provisions.
QUESTION: And this also goes into something like -- let's say the Terrorism Report, where if they're not state sponsors, let's say, of trafficking, they're certainly -- there are certain countries that you list in the report as not recognizing the problem. Do you think that these countries are in denial? Have you gone to these countries and they say, well, that's not a problem? Or do you think it's a cultural issue?
Can you speak about some of these countries where they refuse to address the problem?
MS. SULLIVAN: I seem to have the last word here. I would just simply say that we will continue to work with these countries through our embassies. We will continue to monitor the situation, along with NGOs and international bodies.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I would just add to that -- maybe if I have the last word -- I would just add by saying that, I think that part of it is maybe in some cases certain situations that are on the ground, conflict situations in which attentions are being devoted elsewhere. In other cases, it may be a matter of resources.
You ask, I think, a core question about the denial. And I think that that's again impetus for a dialogue in this report, trying to address these issues head-on, from a perspective of -- that it does not only affect the United States, and it has affected the United States, but clearly it affects a wide range of countries. And hopefully that there would be a broader community effort, and not such a denial.
(The briefing concluded at 10:35 a.m.)
Released on July 12, 2001