Global and Regional Trends in Trafficking in PersonsJ. Kelly Ryan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration
Remarks toBali Process Workshop, "Developing a Coordinated Inter-Agency National Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons"
June 27, 2005
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. The United States strongly supports the Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. I hope that what you achieve over the next two days will accelerate your efforts to eradicate trafficking in the Asia Pacific region.
Regional efforts are the best way to manage migration issues. I represent the U.S. Government in the Regional Conference on Migration, RCM, a forum of 11 countries in North and Central America and the Caribbean. Together we tackle difficult issues ranging from the human rights of migrants, to combating migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons, and technical issues such as passport issuance standards, and migration and health concerns. Similar processes are underway in Southern Africa, South America and the Mediterranean. For example, the Organization of American has been working throughout the Western Hemisphere on raising awareness on anti-trafficking. The OAS recently completed the first phase of a study on the numbers of trafficking victims from Latin American in Japan. The Japanese government was helpful in this endeavor, and the OAS and Government of Japan are now in discussion about the second phase of this research, which will make specific policy recommendations. Working with your neighbors is the most logical way to establish safe and orderly international migration.
Of all the aspects of migration management, trafficking in persons is probably the one on which there is the most agreement. This is a terrible crime that we must stop. The United States is deeply committed to combating trafficking and to protecting the victims of trafficking, in the United States and abroad. My government works with other governments, with International and UN Organizations, as well as with NGOs, including religious and local community associations, and the media to prevent trafficking, prosecute the traffickers and support victims of trafficking to help them re-build their lives
Efforts by the United States to combat trafficking in persons overseas often receive extensive publicity. Less well known to you may be our domestic action to fight trafficking within the U.S. The keystone of the U.S. government's response to modern day slavery is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), enacted into law in October 2000 and reauthorized in 2003. Designed to intensify the fight against trafficking and increase penalties, the TVPA requires federal agencies to combat trafficking domestically and to work with other nations to address this problem internationally. The major diplomatic tool resulting from this law is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report that the State Department writes. Secretary Rice released the 2005 report just three weeks ago. I’ll talk more about this in a few minutes.
The TVPA declares trafficking to be a crime and calls on the U.S. government to prosecute and punish traffickers, protect and rehabilitate the victims, and prevent these criminal activities. Because of this legislation, certified trafficking victims in the U.S. may be eligible for health care, cash assistance, housing, food stamps, and other benefits funded by the federal government. The legislation also provides protection from removal for victims. A special visa, the T visa, can be granted to trafficking victims who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance to investigate or prosecute acts of trafficking. Victims are entitled to privacy, physical protection, and other forms of assistance while their cases are prosecuted. Victims who receive T visas may remain in the United States for three years and then apply for permanent residency. We have recently initiated a program to facilitate the reunification of eligible family members with T-Visa beneficiaries. The same program will provide return assistance to trafficking victims in the U.S. to return to their home countries.
To confront the evil of sex tourism, especially involving children, in 2003, the U.S. Congress passed the "Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act." Under the "PROTECT Act," it is now a crime for any person to enter the United States, or for a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to travel abroad, to sexually abuse children.
The 2003 reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act requires the Attorney General of the United States to submit an annual report to Congress on U.S. efforts to fight trafficking. This means that the United States now assesses its own anti-trafficking programs just as it reviews worldwide anti-trafficking efforts. The most recent report, for our fiscal year 2003, estimates that 14,500 – 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States annually.
The Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security share responsibility for fighting traffickers and assisting victims within the United States. All our agencies’ activities are coordinated at the highest level of our Government by the President’s Task Force to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Because our approach may be a useful model to look at as you discuss your own national action plans, I would like to describe briefly what each agency does.
Attorneys of the U.S. Department of Justice prosecute cases against traffickers and provide training regarding anti-trafficking laws. Hundreds of victims of severe forms of forced labor and sexual exploitation have been successfully rescued; their traffickers have been prosecuted and convicted through Justice Department efforts. Another element of the Department of Justice, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), offers victim support, protection services, prosecutorial and law enforcement strategies, and education resources to trafficking victims and victim service providers.
The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for certifying that a person is a trafficking victim and therefore eligible for temporary housing, legal assistance, educational opportunities, mental health counseling, foster child care, and other benefits. These programs are implemented by states and by dozens of non-government organizations (NGOs) with the assistance of the federal Department. Health and Human Services has also launched an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign with two goals: to create conditions under which victims will feel safe in identifying themselves because they know they will be protected and helped and to reach those who are likely to encounter trafficking victims and enlist their help in freeing the victims and cracking down on the traffickers.
I hope this gives you a sense of the degree to which the United States takes this problem seriously within our own borders. We apply equal or more scrutiny to our own trafficking problem as we do to this issue internationally.
As I mentioned earlier, Secretary of State Rice released the 5th annual Department of State Trafficking In Persons Report just three weeks ago, on June 3rd. The Report, and the $96 million in anti-trafficking assistance our nation provided to foreign governments and non-government organizations last year, demonstrates our strong commitment to the cause of fighting trafficking overseas. I am proud to say that my Bureau, the Bureau of Population Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State provided over $20 million in the past seven years to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), our chosen implementing partner, in support of anti-trafficking programs. One of these projects is the development of modules on specific aspects of combating trafficking dedicated to the training and awareness raising of government officials and service providers. To date IOM has developed four modules on Information Campaigns; Return and Reintegration for Victims; Capacity Building; and Cooperation and Networking.
In the Report, we estimate that up to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and millions more are trafficked internally. 80 percent of victims of international trafficking are female, and up to 50 percent are children. Hundreds of thousands of these women and children are used in prostitution each year. When we look at slavery worldwide, we believe sex slavery is the largest category of transnational slavery. But while sex slavery is large, we are concerned with all forms of slavery. This year, trafficking through labor exploitation, particularly in voluntary servitude of foreign laborers, received greater attention in our Report. This greater emphasis came as a result of better data obtained from source countries and nongovernmental organizations. Four countries are placed on Tier 3 – the worst possible ranking in our Report system -- for their failure to make significant efforts to combat forced labor trafficking.
Our Report did find some good news in the fight against trafficking. Worldwide last year, the number of trafficking related convictions has increased by over 3,000. New anti-human trafficking legislation was approved in 39 countries, including Japan just this month. The Report commends a number of countries for strong policies and implementation of laws. South Korea, for example, launched an initiative to close down outlets for commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, arresting over 500 people and rescuing over 1,000 victims. NGOs are playing an increasingly important role as well. The Indian NGO Shakti Vahini produces an informative Indian Trafficking in Persons Report that rates anti-slavery efforts in Indian states. The Fahmina Institute of Indonesia engages Islamic boarding schools to spread anti-trafficking awareness.
Twenty-six states that belong to the Bali Process are ranked in this year’s Report. Of those, six fall into Tier 1, the highest category. Placement in Tier 1 indicates that a country’s government is fully complying with the minimum standards for combating trafficking as spelled out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. These are, I repeat, minimum standards. Even countries in Tier 1 can do more to combat trafficking, just as the United States can also do more.
Tier 2 states are deemed to not be in compliance with those minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to do so. Fifteen Bali Process members are in Tier 2.
The Tier 2 Watch List category was added to the Report last year. It is intended to capture countries that are in the Tier 2 category but where there are significant other issues, including a high or significantly increasing number of victims, a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking, or a determination that a country’s compliance is based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year. Watch List countries are subject to an interim assessment later this year. Three Bali Process countries are in this category.
Finally, the lowest ranking we give is Tier 3. This is for countries that do not meet minimum standards for combating trafficking and are not making efforts to meet those standards. Worldwide, we placed 14 countries in this category. Two are Bali Process members.
This breakdown of how countries in the region fared on the TIP report leads me to conclude with several observations and recommendations. First, there is within this region ample understanding of how to combat trafficking. The countries that are in Tier 1 and Tier 2 have taken and are taking steps necessary to end trafficking. Use this expertise, share with each other what you know and what has worked. Second, the countries on the Watch List and in Tier 3 are the ones that most need this information. I urge those nations to first of all recognize the severity of the problem and assess what you are doing or should be doing to stop it. Then consult with the people around you today. Finally, I want to acknowledge what some of you may be thinking right now. The United States is sometimes perceived as interfering with other countries when we conduct our assessments. We are sometimes called moralistic. But no one, no state, anywhere, actually defends trafficking in persons. We all agree that this is a heinous crime. The United States is serious about fighting it at home, and we want to help other countries as well. Our goal is not shame; our goal is an end to a terrible crime and new hope for its victims. We need to help each other and work together across regions to reach that goal.