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Nations Make Progress Against Trafficking People

Nations Make Progress Against Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Finds

Annual report on trafficking estimates up to 800,000 victims each year

By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The world's most comprehensive report on trafficking in persons shows governments are making some progress in their responses to this form of organized criminal activity -- often called modern-day slavery -- with stronger laws, increased convictions and greater protections for victims. The findings were contained in the fourth annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released by the U.S. Department of State June 14.

The 2004 report estimates that 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, and perhaps many more are trafficked within their own countries. A 2003 estimate was slightly higher. An estimated 80 percent of victims are women and girls, the majority of them forced sex workers.

Introducing this year's report, Secretary of State Colin Powell said governments are responding to the threat of sanctions that the United States began enforcing in 2003 against nations not following international standards for responding to human trafficking. To avoid those sanctions, nations are making "significant progress" in confronting their trafficking problems, he said.

"As a result of those improvements, real people have been helped, and real lives saved," Powell said. He noted the countries that have moved up since last year from the least favorable rating (known as Tier 3). They are Belize, Bosnia Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Suriname, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The 2004 TIP report rated 10 nations in the Tier 3 category: Bangladesh, Burma, Cuba, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, North Korea, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Venezuela.

A total of 140 countries are rated in the 2004 TIP report, an increase of 16 over 2003. The international survey also emphasizes that no nation is immune from trafficking, and may be either a source of victims, a transit route for traffickers or a destination country where a demand exists for forced, exploited workers.

Powell emphasized the need for international unity in the campaign against trafficking in persons, crimes President Bush has described as "a special evil." Trafficking in persons involves human rights violations, but also is connected to international crime syndicates trading in drugs, guns and false documents, the report said. It creates a public health threat of sexually transmitted disease, and it is an international security threat because the billions of dollars made by traffickers are fueling more crime, violence and even terrorism, the report says.

"Again we call upon all states to work together to close down trafficking routes, prosecute traffickers, and protect and reintegrate victims back into society," Powell said.

Director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John R. Miller provided further details on the progress governments are making against trafficking. "Twenty-four countries this past year have new comprehensive anti-trafficking laws. There have been 8,000 prosecutions worldwide and almost 3,000 convictions."

Consistent with the objective to inspire action against human trafficking, the TIP report also issues praise for localities that have adopted "best practices" in their strides to prevent trafficking, provide for victims or prosecute traffickers themselves. Panama has passed a law that requires businesses in the tourist industry to inform travelers about laws against child pornography and sex tourism. The city of Madrid has taken strides to reduce both prostitution and trafficking by targeting the customers of these illicit endeavors, while at the same time engaging in prevention and victim assistance efforts.

The report describes efforts such as these as innovative, creative, effective, sustainable and easily replicated in other areas.

The report's methodology was modified in 2004 from its original three-tier system for rating countries' effectiveness in combating trafficking. Tier 1 includes those countries that have met international standards for coping with trafficking and are vigorously addressing the problem. Tier 2 comprises countries that are demonstrating commitment to address their problems, but have not yet achieved international standards. This year, the Tier 2 "Watch List" has been added, made up of countries that may be vulnerable to an erosion of their efforts.

Japan is among the nations on the "Watch List" Miller said because of efforts unequal to the severity of the trafficking problem in Japan. "When the victims number in the thousands, I found only two small shelters in Japan willing to take trafficking victims. Each have eight to ten beds," Miller said. On the law enforcement side of the problem, Miller said the efforts in arrests and convictions did not seem significant in comparison to the magnitude of the Japanese problem.

Mexico is another nation placed on the Tier 2 Watch List. The report finds that although child sex victims number as high as 20,000, the Mexican government has established neither a comprehensive anti-trafficking law nor a national law enforcement strategy to address these crimes. Miller did point to emerging signs of increased activity in this area, however, and is looking the nation's southern border for greater cooperation to combat trafficking in persons.

The full text of the report is available on the World Wide Web at

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