The TIP ReportInterview of John R. Miller, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Trafficking Watch International Rescue Committee
Issue No. 5, Summer 2004
October 14, 2004
Jane Kim, managing editor of Trafficking Watch, conducted an interview with Ambassador John Ripin Miller, who discussed the TIP Report and elaborated on progress the U.S. and foreign governments are making to put an end to modern-day slavery. The Senate recently confirmed President Bush's nomination of Mr. Miller for the rank of Ambassador at Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State.
Kim: The TIP Report this year made changes not only with the creation of the Special Watch List, but also by amending one of the four minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. How has this impacted the current assessment of countries and what do you envision the concrete implications of these new provisions will be on global anti-trafficking efforts throughout the upcoming year?
Miller: Let me go over some of the changes that Congress made [with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act]. Along with Tier 1 countries that have a significant number of victims, but are meeting the minimum standards; Tier 2 countries that are not meeting the minimum standards, but are making significant efforts; and Tier 3 countries that are not making significant efforts, this year we have the category of Tier 2 Watch Lists -- weak Tier 2 countries that are in danger of falling to Tier 3. There are some 40 major countries on the Tier 2 Watch List including Japan, Russia, and India. This is a very useful tool to focus on the problem and bring attention to those countries that need to strengthen their actions in the coming year.
Other changes that Congress requires place the burden on governments to produce evidence of investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking offenses. This has already started but the law gives added impetus in this year's report to law enforcement efforts including convictions and sentences meted for trafficking crimes. While this is not a complete picture and there is still insufficient evidence, there is much more information than previously reported. This requirement indirectly leads to more arrests and prosecutions. This past year, there were more than 8000 prosecutions and 3000 convictions worldwide.
The third change that Congress requires is demonstration of appreciable progress in global anti-trafficking efforts. In other words, countries currently in Tier 1 or Tier 2 do not maintain these tier placements by doing exactly what they have done in previous years. They need to step up their efforts. This appropriately serves as a warning to governments: bringing forward the same number of prosecutions as last year is not enough when dealing with a premiere human rights issue -- trafficking and slavery in the 21st century. We cannot simply accept the status quo. I believe that we will see increased efforts in the coming year not just because of the TIP report but also because of the numerous efforts carried out by the media and NGOs and as a result, growing interest and attention to this issue. More and more people, including government officials, are becoming more aware that slavery is a serious problem in the 21st century and are reacting strongly.
Kim: What steps are being taken to ensure that more information on trafficking is obtained for countries that have not passed the 'significant number' of trafficking victims threshold for inclusion in the TIP Report?
Miller: We have added 16 new countries to this report. Yet for a small number of countries, there remains insufficient information to conclude that a significant trafficking problem exists, in the neighborhood of 100 or more trafficking victims. Let me qualify, however, what I mean by "insufficient" -- this does not imply that some of these countries do not have a slavery problem. I believe that slavery extends to every nation. This is an information proof problem but we will focus more on these countries in the coming year.
Kim: Can you briefly describe the range of anti-trafficking programs and priority regions, if applicable, that will be supported by the TIP Office in fiscal year 2004? Will there be stepped up efforts focusing on victim rescue initiatives and prevention measures that address the demand for trafficking?
Miller: We have not identified priority regions because we believe that slavery extends to every nation. In the coming year, we plan to focus more on destination countries, wealthier countries where slaves coming from generally poorer countries can be found. While we do not prioritize specific regions, our focus for program funding will be on Tier 3 and Tier 2 Watch List countries. The law provides that Tier 3 countries have three or four months to shape up and make significant efforts [in order to avoid non-humanitarian, non-trade related sanctions]. And Tier 2 Special Watch List countries will be reviewed in an interim assessment to Congress by February of next year. Countries that don't meet minimum standards or make significant efforts run the risk of sanctions, loss of U.S. aid.
Beyond that, as you recall from President Bush's speech before the General Assembly last year in which he devoted more than twenty percent of his speech to trafficking, there are additional resources for major initiatives. Through the Senior Policy Operating Group, we have worked to identify countries that have a challenge ahead of them but also seem receptive to working with us -- Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Cambodia, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Moldova. President Bush's initiative will seek out NGOs that not only help rescue victims but also provide trafficking victims protection, medical attention, other services, and hope for a new life.
Kim: This year's report highlights the global phenomenon of child soldiering as a 'unique and severe manifestation' of child trafficking. What are some of the targeted and cross-cutting strategies and interventions being implemented to ensure that foreign governments and armed groups not only disarm and demobilize child soldiers but also take action to extend protection and reintegration services to this group?
Miller: Due to the special efforts of Rachel Yousey, reports officer for Africa, there is an added emphasis on child soldiering and slavery in this year's report. Although it exists in other parts of the world, this phenomenon is most acute in Africa. When you talk about abolishing child soldiering and slavery, governments need to demonstrate political will and put pressure on military forces to end this practice. There needs to be political will at the top. Our embassies are increasingly addressing this issue. But there's also the issue of rehabilitating these children whose lives and souls are damaged, who need to be reintegrated into society. There are some models we are very impressed with, including a shelter in Rwanda where 12 to 17 year-old former child soldiers are sent for rehabilitative and psychological counseling and services. They relearn their native language and receive help reintegrating into their home communities. We are hoping to replicate programs like these.
Kim: Trafficking has been recognized as a significant public health threat that includes the transmission of HIV/AIDS often as a result of forced prostitution. Is there data available that reveals the magnitude and extent to which sex trafficking increases the risks of HIV/AIDS? Also, what advances have been made toward coordinating anti-trafficking efforts with U.S. policies on fighting AIDS abroad?
Miller: We are hoping to find and accumulate more evidence regarding the public health implications of trafficking. We're working with global AIDS initiatives to collect more data. At the present time, there is no statistical data. Based on my observations and personal contact with many victims, there is no question about the links between prostitution, HIV/AIDS, and trafficking.
I met an elderly woman, Pu, in Cambodia at the White Lotus shelter. She was 17 years old and living in a rural village when her sister introduced her to a man. They married and he took her away to another fishing village. The next morning, he was gone and Pu found herself in a brothel where she was sold. She suffered beatings, the dead hanging over her head, and was forced to work for years. She might have died in the brothel but for the fact that she contracted HIV/AIDS and lost her value to [the traffickers] who treated her as a disposable commodity. She found help in a shelter and is now telling her story -- haltingly, painfully -- because she wants to help other people. I asked how old she was and she said 24 years old. I was astounded because I thought she was 50, 60 years old -- her body was so ravaged. When traffickers and exploiters go from country to country, they take the virus with them from country to country.
Kim: In response to the release of the 2004 TIP report, there has been international criticism contending that country assessments are heavily influenced by politics, that the United States is not included in the country assessments, and that the information is outdated. Would you care to address these points?
Miller: By law, the State Department cannot report on the U.S. in the TIP report. I chair the Senior Policy Operating Group and we decided that there should be an assessment on the United States. The Department of Justice issued the 2nd annual assessment at the same time the TIP report was released. This assessment lists in copious detail what the U.S. is doing and areas where the U.S. needs to improve -- and can be accessed on their website [http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/wetf/us_assessment_2004.pdf].
Regarding outdated information -- clearly, the information is at least two months old. Because of the review and printing process, this is inescapable. We send out cables to U.S. Embassies in January as well as letters to hundreds of NGOs asking for information. We check media reports and send out staff to visit countries. At some point, we need to cut it off; information received in May will probably not make it into the report. We need to improve this coming year. We sent out emails to over 400 NGOs in February of this year and pleaded in March as follow-up, but the number of NGOs that responded was infinitesimally small. We hope that next year NGOs will respond to our pleas in January, February, March because we want and need their help -- they offer a counterbalance to government and embassy information and can provide alternative information.
Politics can be defined in many ways. Clearly, our embassies and regional bureaus look at trafficking and slavery through different prisms than we do. We believe that trafficking is a premiere human rights issue and a major goal of U.S. foreign policy while bureaus and embassies are concerned with good diplomatic relations and other issues. In the process of State Department review, these ratings are discussed and revised as people bring different perspectives to the table. This is not politics in a bad sense. There will be inherent differences in perspectives and I think Congress has anticipated this. We see ourselves as representatives and advocates for trafficking victims, which is the mission of this office, President Bush, and Secretary of State Powell.