Modern-Day Slaves Exist in Every Nation; The Lucky Ones SurviveAmbassador John R. Miller, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons
San Jose Mercury News
August 1, 2006
Last month, Canadian border officials rescued six young Korean women who were about to be trafficked into the United States as sex slaves. The six, found by alert members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had been lured to Canada by human traffickers promising work in a restaurant, according to published reports.
Trafficking in people is modern-day slavery, and it exists in every country.
Consider Nour, a young woman from Indonesia. Offered employment as a housekeeper, she came to Saudi Arabia, hoping to earn enough money to one day realize her simple dream of keeping her daughter in school.
Sadly, her dream became a nightmare shortly after she began working for an employer who confiscated her passport and confined her to a small room. Instead of paying her for the long hours she worked, Nour's employer began to torture her, leaving her hands and feet so badly injured that she was hospitalized. Her fingers and toes were amputated.
Nour was fortunate. Although she can't work anymore, she survived. Now, she wants her story--and that of many others like her--to be heard.
According to U.S. government estimates, between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Millions more--especially girls--are forced, duped or coerced into sexual servitude, forced labor and even child soldiering within their home country.
Some never leave their communities but are held in bonded servitude, forced to work long hours under tremendous physical abuse to pay a debt that may span generations. One such example is Raman, a young boy who was born at the same brick kiln in India where his father and grandfather had worked their entire lives to pay off a family debt.
In response, the Bush Administration has spent more than $400 million in international anti-trafficking assistance and has spearheaded a new type of diplomacy: The Department of State issues an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to expose the problems in each country. A separate report is issued on the United States.
Released last month, the sixth annual TIP Report is a country-by-country assessment of the international effort to combat human trafficking by prosecuting perpetrators, protecting their victims and working to prevent future trafficking crimes.
At the top of the Report's tiered rankings are those governments that meet minimum standards for prosecution, protection and prevention.
Languishing at the other end of the report are "Tier 3" countries, whose governments face possible U.S. revocation of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance for failing to comply with even the minimum standards for the elimination of modern-day slavery.
Even the threat of sanctions has proved to be a powerful prod when coupled with increased public awareness. Just ask Ecuador, Finland, Malawi and Switzerland. Last year's report helped convince each of those government to significantly improve their law enforcement and victim protection efforts. Each moved up in this year's tier rankings.
All over the world, the number of trafficking convictions and trafficking shelters is rising. Still, every country--even the United States--can and must do more to thwart forced labor and domestic servitude, sexual slavery and child sex tourism.
Nour's tragic story, and that of thousands like her whose stories we'll never read about, is reason enough to, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rightly put it, "probe even the darkest places, calling to account any country, friend or foe that is not doing enough to combat human trafficking."