More nations are fighting human trafficking, the United States said in a report that for the first time rated its own performance — described as among the most vigilant but with room to improve.
“The United States is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labour, debt bondage, and forced prostitution,” the US State Department said in its annual Trafficking in Persons report.
US trafficking most often occurs for labour, rather than for the sex trade, and particularly afflicts domestic workers as well as those in agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, health and elder care, it said.
While placing the United States in the top “Tier 1” group of states that meet basic standards on trafficking, the report said it could improve by collecting better data on cases and by forming task forces like those that combat narcotics.
It also recommended better training of US federal agents and prosecutors in victim protection as well as in identifying, investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
“This report sends a clear message to all of our countrymen and women: human trafficking is not someone else’s problem,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as she unveiled the report. “Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn’t exist in our own community.”
The State Department found 13 nations do not meet minimum standards on fighting trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so, a drop from 17 nations in 2009.
The countries in this lowest “Tier 3” category were Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Iran, Kuwait, Mauritania, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Six countries — Chad, Fiji, Malaysia, Niger, Swaziland and Syria — climbed out of the bottom “Tier 3” rank.
But Switzerland fell from “Tier 1” to “Tier 2” because the State Department learned of laws — long on the books — allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to legally engage in prostitution.
Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, who heads the State Department’s Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the United States and Switzerland were discussing how to tackle the issue.