Amb. J.R. Miller: Trafficking in Persons Report
Release of the Fifth Annual Trafficking in Persons Report
Ambassador John R. Miller, Senior Advisor on Trafficking
June 3, 2005
(12:00 p.m. EDT)
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Thank you, Madame Secretary. As Secretary of State Rice eloquently explained, human trafficking or trafficking in persons is synonymous with slavery. Now, this is a time when we roll out this report with facts, with figures, with categories, but this report is, more than anything, about human beings. And so I want to start by telling you about Svetlana, an all too typical victim of human trafficking.
Last year, Svetlana was a young woman living in Belarus, looking for a job. She came upon some Turkish men who promised her a well-paying job in Istanbul and once Svetlana crossed the border, the men seized her money, her papers, her passport. They locked her up. They forced her into prostitution. And then one night, they farmed her out to two businessmen, just like a commodity. Desperate, Svetlana jumped out of a window and fell six stories to a sidewalk. According to Turkish court documents, the so-called customers went down, found her on the sidewalk and instead of calling the police, called the traffickers, who killed her.
Svetlana's body lay unclaimed in the morgue for two weeks until Turkish authorities learned her identity and sent her body to Belarus. There is a bright spot in this too common tragedy. Belarusian and Turkish authorities cooperated this year to arrest and charge those responsible for Svetlana's death, which I think brings out that bad things are happening, but also how there are counterattacks going on.
Svetlana and other victims' stories are interspersed throughout the introduction to this year's report. I think you've all got copies of it. And they're there so that we may always remember what this struggle is about. Trafficking in persons relies on coercion and exploitation. It thrives on converting hope to fear. It is maintained through violence and it is highly profitable. In that sense, while there are differences, there are also similarities to the slavery of earlier centuries. U.S. Government is committed to taking action in cooperation with other nations to end modern-day slavery and that is the ultimate purpose of this annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which we're releasing today for the fifth year.
This is a tool, along with the assessment of the United States, which comes out later this month -- one of many tools to help free the slaves and throw traffickers in jail. Trafficking is not simply a crime against human rights. It amounts to a public health menace and a rich source of financing for organized crime. It's a dangerous and perverse mutation of otherwise beneficial global exchange. We believe that modern day slavery plagues every, every country, including the United States. This report covers 150 countries found to be a source destination or transit country, for on the order of 100 victims, the threshold for inclusion in the report.
If you find a country is not listed, it probably means we have insufficient knowledge of slavery in that country or else the government in the country cannot exercise sufficient control to be evaluated. Our sources of information are diverse: law enforcement, U.S. embassies, NGOs, daring activists, foreign governments, our own visits. Everything enters the mix, extensive analysis and debate goes into the assessment of each country and assignment into Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 watch list, or Tier 3.
We didn't design the system. Congress designed the system with important help from nongovernmental organization and faith-based communities. I'm happy to note that the Tier 2 warning watch list, introduced last year, has been very effective. 31 of the 46 countries on the 2004 TIP reports, Tier 2 watch list improve their ratings this year. The increased scrutiny of these countries' anti-trafficking efforts required of us by Congress has led to the State Department's greater engagement with these governments. More important, it has led to greater efforts by the governments themselves.
For the third year, Tier 3 countries can be sanctioned if they don't take significant anti-slavery action in the next few months. I'm encouraged to note several countries that were on Tier 3 last June stepped up anti-slavery activities so that they have been raised. In South America, Guyana's president pushed through the country's first anti-trafficking law and led a countrywide awareness campaign on the dangers of trafficking. In South Asia, Bangladesh set up a long-promised special anti-trafficking police unit, which started new investigations while rescuing an increased number of victims.
When we look at slavery worldwide, we believe sex slavery is the largest category of transnational slavery. It is intrinsically linked to prostitution and we find that where prostitution is encouraged, the number of victims increases. That is why to combat sex slavery, we are urging a greater focus on demand, educating and dissuading the so-called customers. 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. This greater emphasis came as a result of better data obtained from source countries and nongovernmental organizations. Four countries are placed on Tier 3 for their failure primarily to make significant efforts to combat forced labor trafficking: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The forced labor may involve foreign workers who end up in conditions of involuntary servitude or child camel jockeys who live in slave-like conditions and are forced to race in extremely dangerous environments.
Burma and North Korea, Sudan and Cuba remain on Tier 3, largely because they still fail to address forced labor in their countries. Another government, Cambodia, is on Tier 3 because of government complicity in trafficking in persons -- another important criteria for Tier 3 and the law.
The report covers efforts from March 2004 to March 2005. Some governments have taken steps against slavery since the report was drafted. This is great. Ecuador was placed on Tier 3 again this year for its lack of significant efforts during the reporting period. Two days ago, Ecuador's congress passed criminal code changes that could lead to positive progress in fighting slavery.
The country ratings here, the government ratings are based strictly on government actions to combat trafficking in persons as defined by U.S. law. The standards are set up for the Trafficking Victim Protection Act and are applied equally to every country. We examine each country individually. The goal of the report is not to punish but to stimulate government action to end modern day slavery. We hope all Tier 3 countries will move off Tier 3 within the 90-day grace period by taking concrete steps to combat trafficking in persons. We are prepared to work with them to help achieve this.
At the same time, nowhere on earth is it allowable to systematically abuse children for sport or to stand up while household help is trapped and exploited with no recourse to help or to look the other way while sex traffickers seize young women.
I'd like to address one misperception that is developed around this Trafficking in Persons Report. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 requires Tier ratings to emphasis government efforts against human trafficking, especially in terms of prosecution, protection and prevention, rather than just the extent of the slavery problem. Under the law, countries that have substantial anti-trafficking in person efforts underway justify higher ratings, even if they have a large trafficking in person problem.
Now, stepping back and looking around the world, the picture is not all bleak. Shining through this global tragedy are many rays of hope. In addition to the tremendous efforts of heroic individuals and private organizations, governments around the globe are awakening to this issue and taking action to end this form of modern day slavery.
Worldwide, this past year, the number of trafficking related convictions has increased over 3,000. And new anti-human trafficking legislation was approved in 39 countries. That's a big change from five or ten years ago.
We're seeing progress on many fronts. In this year's report, several countries on Tier 1 showed anti-trafficking in person leadership through strong policies and implementation of laws. South Korea launched a brave initiative to close down outlets for commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, arresting over 500 people and rescuing over 1,000 victims.
Sweden continued its path-breaking program to prosecute exploiters and clients of prostitution while identifying and protecting women in commercial sexual exploitation. Sweden has funded anti-trafficking information campaigns throughout Europe, focusing on curbing demand for trafficking victims.
Morocco has led efforts to hold accountable UN peacekeepers guilty of sexual abuse of minors in areas of UN deployment. The report on pages 33 and 38 identifies international best practices and anti-slavery heroes throughout the world. And those sections could have been much longer, believe me.
The best practices are wide and varied and all are commendable, but let me highlight a few. The Indian NGO Shakti Vahini produces an informative Indian Trafficking in Persons Report that rates anti-slavery efforts in Indian states. The Malawian nongovernmental organization People Serving Girls at Risk works to identify and help underage girls in prostitution through undercover outreach. And the Fahmina Institute of Indonesia engages Islamic boarding schools to spread anti-trafficking awareness.
The anti-slavery heroes cited in the report, a few out of thousands, range from Ansar Burney the Pakistani human rights activist who has sought to help Asian and African children who have been trafficked to the Arabian Gulf countries for exploitation, as camel jockeys. To Somaly Mam and Pierre Legros of the French NGO AFESIP who braved personal threats from traffickers to rescue victims of sex slavery in Southeast Asia.
The U.S. is deeply committed to fulfilling its responsibilities in the fight against trafficking in persons. And that's why we contributed an excess of $80 million abroad for all kinds of anti-trafficking programs last year. In January, President George W. Bush said, "no one is fit to be a master and no one deserves to be a slave." And because of the stain of slavery, on our own history, these words have special meaning to us and they guide our efforts against trafficking in persons, based on our strong belief in freedom and human dignity. As the Secretary has stated, modern slavery has been met and is being met with a growing powerful response -- a 21st century abolitionist movement. We must all do our part.
Thank you and let's turn to questions. Oh, my gosh. Okay, yes. Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: Andrea Mitchell from NBC. Can you tell us regarding Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, whether you believe that it was the prior sanctions to get some action? In particular in Saudi Arabia, they have moved backwards, not forward since last year's report. And you've got four countries that are major allies of the United States in the war on terror and in military operations that are chief abusers in this practice.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Well, I won't disagree with your characterization of the situation. It is serious, for example, in Saudi Arabia we have domestic workers being brought in from many countries into domestic servitude -- child beggars, a lot of beatings, reports of beatings and rape, very difficult to get shelter, no convictions. But you're -- the first part of your question was: Is this going to lead to sanctions? My answer is I hope not because the purpose of the law is not to sanction, it is to get progress in freeing the victims and throwing the traffickers in jail.
QUESTION: They've moved backwards in the last year.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Wait a minute -- that's
QUESTION: Will it require sanctions?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: If they stay in Tier 3, it will require sanctions. However, the reason why I hope this will not take place is under the law, there are now three months for any government in Tier 3 to take significant steps against trafficking and we're prepared to work with these governments, including the governments you mentioned. Our hope is there will be enough progress in freeing the victims and throwing the traffickers in jail that at the end of 120 days, there will not have to be sanctions, but there is that possibility.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: This law has been in effect for five years?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you say how many countries and which ones have been sanctioned until now?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah. There have been several countries sanctioned. But the interesting thing is that countries that are willing to work on this issue in the past, we've had several relationships with, have avoided sanctions by taking action in the three months or four months after the report.
For example, two years ago, we placed Turkey and Greece, two NATO allies, on Tier 3. But in the four months over the summer, the arrests, the prosecutions, the setting up of referral systems to get victims to nongovernmental organizations, the setting up of shelters, there was significant progress made, which we were delighted with. So the purpose here is not to result in sanctions, although that may happen, it is to get progress.
Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Under which capacity, the United States is preparing in those type of reports, interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign countries?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: I'm sorry. Could you just repeat the question again?
QUESTION: Yes. Under which capacity, the United States of America is preparing, those type of reports interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign countries?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Okay. Well, this is not the first time I've heard that question. The answer -- that is that reminds me of a question that was asked William Wilberforce. On the floor of the English Parliament, back in the 1790s when he discovered, realized the extent of slavery and started his campaign to end the slave trade, and the question that was asked of him by another parliamentarian was: Will the right honorable gentleman tell me what rights we have to impose British moral values on the world? Wilberforce, who was alone in Parliament when he started this action, cited universal and religious values, to show that people nowhere wanted slavery.
Today, we have -- the case is much stronger because unlike in Wilberforce's time, no government in the world, that I'm aware of, officially endorses slavery and there are numerous international covenants, UN covenants, that nations of the world have subscribed to that are -- banned slavery.
So I would say in this effort that we're participating in, we are trying both at home and abroad to work with other countries in trying to end a slavery, that citizens around the world and ostensibly, governments around the world, all agree is a scourge that should be ended. Let's take somebody in the back.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Advocacy organizations around the world are saying that poverty and lack of job opportunities is one of the causes of women or families being vulnerable to slavery. To what extent is the United States prepared to relieve debt to World Bank or IMF loans and other forms to substantially improve the quality of life and services in nations around the world vulnerable?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Sure. Well, as Ambassador-at-large on international slavery, I'm not the U.S. expert or authority on international debt, but I want to comment on the premise of your question. You identified poverty as a major cause of slavery and slave trade and I would agree it is a major cause. There are a lot of studies that have been done in the last couple of years -- I won't cite them all -- that show, however, that it is one of several major causes. Poverty is a push factor. There is the pull factor of the attraction of the better life in the wealthier country. There is the factor of gender attitudes. Believe me, when you look at sex slavery and parts of domestic servitude slavery, gender attitudes play a big role.
There is the role of organized crime and greed. I mean, this is a big source of revenue for organized crime. I mean, now they -- we talked about the arms trade, the drug trade, and the people trade being sources of revenue for organized crime.
So all of these causes we hope will be addressed, but in the meantime -- in the meantime -- we are seeking, through our office, to do what we can to work with other countries to get better law enforcement, get better protection for victims, and get prevention and education campaigns.
QUESTION: To what extent are the efforts in the United States to identify victims and to give them the T-4 visa programs they -- to what extent are those efforts successful and why are not --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: How many victims have been identified to date?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And what are the problems in identifying victims?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah. That's a very good question. Did everybody hear -- should I be repeating the questions or --
QUESTION: No, that's fine. We don't mind.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: You can hear, okay. Your question about identifying victims in the United States, you put your finger on a problem that is -- confronts the United States and almost every country in the world. The gap between what are estimated to be the number of victims and the actual number of victims getting help -- just two weeks ago, President Bush's task force on trafficking in persons consisting of cabinet officers chaired by Secretary of State Rice discussed this issue and the Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt specifically brought up, as an area where we need to do more, exactly that.
What has been done? And the gap is such -- to give you an idea of the gap, I believe the figure now is about roughly 700 people have been helped with temporary visas in the United States. They cooperate in prosecutions, get assistance and all that, yet we know the figure -- we suspect -- we don't scientifically know, since victims don't stand in line to be -- raise their hands to be counted, but we suspect that the figure for the number of victims annually crossing into the United States across our borders every year is in excess of 14 and a half thousand. So there's a gap.
Presently, Health and Human Services has pilot programs in ten -- I believe it's soon to be 20 cities -- trying to reach out to the foreign migrant communities to help victims come forward. We are starting to consider another additional approach, a work sector approach, and Health and Human Services has done some work on this, but this approach would involve mobilizing or involving doctors, hospitals, lawyers, travel industry personnel in this effort to try to help victims come forward.
So you're right in identifying one of the big challenges.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this question, sir?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah. Well, just --
QUESTION: It's on this particular area.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you speak about what the U.S. is doing to just not only identify victims, but to combat demand, as the Secretary said? You just said that nowhere on earth --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it acceptable, so --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Right.
QUESTION: -- what is the U.S. doing? And it's your -- you just mentioned that you were the Ambassador of international slavery. Is this a new title or are you just kind of encapsulating what it is that the --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Well, it's -- I guess it's sort of new. It's -- Congress and the President raised the position to ambassadorial status -- well, I was confirmed by the Senate nine months ago and in the previous year, I guess the end of 2003, legislation was passed raising this position to ambassadorial status. In addition, I -- at the direction of the President, I chair a -- under that Presidential task force I referred to, I chair a senior policy operating group of domestic and foreign U.S. agencies trying to coordinate policies.
Now, let's get to the first part of your question: demand and what's being done in the United States. I think if you look at the United States and around the world, you'll see there are a lot of demand education programs directed at potential victims. However, what you don't see yet are a lot of programs directed at the demand for the victims. That is starting to change in the United States.
I'll give you a good example. There is an organization, SAGE in San Francisco, with U.S. taxpayers' support, that first convinced the San Francisco law enforcement authorities to arrest not just the women engaged in prostitution, who might be trafficking victims, but arrest the traffickers, the pimps, the brothel owners, and the so-called customers. And then that organization convinced the authorities that a fine should be imposed on the first offense so there would a school, which has the name, John School, that these men would have to go to. I visited there a couple of weeks ago and this school now has been going for some time, appears to have very good results, two percent recidivism rate.
This program has now spread in different forms to 15 or 20 U.S. cities. I think it's going to spread further and we are discussing with different countries around the world how this could be replicated in those countries to address demand. For example, we're in discussions with the Korean Ministry of Gender and Equality on that issue.
Yes, in the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you saying that the Brazil Government is making progress, but is not fully complying? Could you say what needs to be done?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Sure. Brazil, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, is listed in Tier 2, which is the upper category of the report. I visited Brazil last fall. One of the positive things going on in Brazil: Brazil has started setting up, in different provinces, anti-trafficking in persons efforts.
I think one of the problems that Brazil faces is that while there has been tremendous government interest, the President of Brazil has spoken out very strongly on this issue, but if you look at the actual finished product in law enforcement, three convictions last year, coming out of scores and scores of investigations and hundreds and hundreds of victims -- so, I think in that area, they can do more. They can do more in terms of their awareness campaigns and their protection efforts for victims, but I would say law enforcement would be the major area.
I hope I'm calling -- yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: You mentioned Canada as a transit country.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yes.
QUESTION: With some of these sex trade workers.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And although Canada is in Tier 1, how would you rate Canada in terms of this problem and what do you think Canada should do to improve the situation?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Okay. Well, you're talking about Canada as a transit country and Canada has done some very aggressive things the last year. We have a specific transit problem we have to address with Canada and I think it's referred to in the report. I hope it's referred to. And the challenge that we face is that there are migrants from the Far East that come into Canada -- for example, Korea, they don't need a visa and then they just come across the U.S. border and we -- there's a lot of evidence that there's hundreds of such victims involved.
We're going to have to -- we're working on this with Canada and Korea. We're going to see what we can do to try to address this problem. That's an example.
I'm sorry, there's so -- yes? There's so many people. Go ahead.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Ambassador I'm afraid we're going to have to make this limited to a couple more people. So why don't you take that one and then I know Teri wanted to get in --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Okay. Oh, Teri -- no, no, no, no. Okay, yes. Okay, I'll take two. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Ambassador Miller, my name is Wen Ha (ph), Radio Free Asia.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: I didn't hear -- you didn't mention anything about Vietnam.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: However, the problem is there. You know, like there -- now, Vietnam last year was on Tier 2 watch list.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Watch list, yes.
QUESTION: On the Tier 2 --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: It's not on the watch list anymore.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: My question is, what is the method that you used to -- in order to classify Vietnam to Tier 2 watch list?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: To -- well, we thought they --
QUESTION: Did you find -- yeah, did you send a fact-finding team to Vietnam?
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah, yeah. We have had -- Vietnam made some significant progress in the last year. For example, we were very critical of Vietnam before on exporting Vietnamese labor and cooperating with what we thought were slave owners in other countries, including one operation in American Samoa. But they have stepped in and are giving much better supervision and control. Their number of convictions has increased, so there's been some progress in Vietnam.
Teri, Teri? No, I've got to -- no, Teri -- I ignored her last year.
QUESTION: He ignored me last year.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: I didn't call on her. I got to -- okay.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Ambassador Miller, a couple of things. You didn't actually tell us who has been sanctioned when you talked about sanctions and I wanted to go back to the question of these very close allies: Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia. And could you -- you've been to these countries and you've had discussions with these leaders about these issues --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and many of them have laws in place, not to mention authoritarian regimes that should be able to enforce these laws, one would think. Could you help us understand why they aren't doing more, especially being such close allies of the U.S. in counterterrorism, for example? And we really do want to know who's been sanctioned.
AMBASSADOR MILLER: I'm glad you've -- the toughest question comes last. Well, in terms of countries that have been sanctioned, if you look at the countries in -- nobody has been sanctioned this year. If you look at the countries from last year's report, and we can -- I can't recall them from memory, but you can -- our staff can get them to you, but your -- the tough part of your question was -- well, here are close friends of the United States; how can this happen? Two years ago, I was asked about Greece and Turkey; how can allies be on Tier 3?
I believe that this is a function, to a large extent, of information and public awareness, that as public awareness increases in these countries, you see more action. For example, just for example, in Saudi Arabia, a recent case involving an Indonesian young woman tortured, beaten, dumped at a hospital -- domestic servitude case has gotten publicity. A human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia has protested there and I don't know how it's all going to come out, but they're -- apparently in the last month, there was an arrest made.
As public awareness increases -- and sometimes when countries don't have free flows of information, that's hard -- but as public awareness increases, I don't think people want slavery today and this is where one of the signs of progress has been the exponential increase of news media attention to this issue the last couple of years.
Since I'm at the end here, I want to tell you, when you write on this -- when you write on this, I know you're journalists and all that -- but when you write on this issue, you indirectly help free victims and throw traffickers in jail because it increases public awareness. People become more aware all over the world. They become more aware in the United States. They start talking to their local police. They start talking to their public officials.
Good things happen when -- so -- but the last comment, I am -- so, I have a meeting coming up with foreign ambassadors and then NGOs.
I know there are a lot of people that didn't get to ask questions. If --
QUESTION: You're going to come up, sir. We have about 10 minutes to (inaudible) --
AMBASSADOR MILLER: Oh, I've got 10 more minutes, okay. And -- but we've also got people on our staff: Eleanor Kennelly, Caroline Tetschner that even if I have to move out after five or ten minutes can answer questions.
So thank you all for coming. I appreciate it.
Released on June 3, 2005