WASHINGTON — A State Department official has testified before Congress, explaining that China, Russia and Uzbekistan have not made adequate progress in addressing human trafficking in recent years.
“Trafficking in persons affects every country in the world, and no government is doing enough to fight it,” Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large for trafficking in persons, testified before a House subcommittee on Africa, global health and global human rights July 11.
The annual State Department "Trafficking in Persons" report was released June 19, and it details the state of trafficking in persons for sex, labor and other motivations in countries around the globe in the past year.
In the report, China, Russia and Uzbekistan were downgraded from the "Tier 2 Watch List" to "Tier 3" because they were “found not to be taking the affirmative steps needed to fight human trafficking.”
The hearing was held to discuss the downgrade in the three countries’ status, as well as the broader worldwide trafficking trends.
“Through our diplomacy, we urge governments to fully embrace their responsibility to deal with this crime, and we offer to work with any government that takes this problem seriously,” CdeBaca said.
Worldwide, the report showed a decrease in the number of countries that meet "Tier 1" standards for protecting victims of human trafficking and an increase in the number of countries on the "Tier 2 Watch List" and in "Tier 3" for their failure to adequately address the trafficking-in-persons situation in their countries.
Previously, China, Russia and Uzbekistan had been on a "Tier 2 Watch List." Under the 2008 re-authorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a country on the "Tier 2" list for two consecutive years must either show “sufficient progress had been made to merit an upgrade to Tier 2” or face an automatic downgrade, the ambassador explained.
“The law allowed for the mandatory downgrade provision to be waived for up to two additional years, meaning that a country could be on the 'Tier 2 Watch List' for a total of four consecutive years if a government provided a written plan designed to bring that country into compliance with the minimum standards,” CdeBaca added.
This was the first year after the initiation of the 2008 policy that countries could be automatically downgraded for failing to make enough progress in fighting human trafficking to remove themselves from the watch list.
“In China, Russia and Uzbekistan, we did not see … progress, and, as a result, they had to be placed on 'Tier 3' of this year’s report,” he explained, accounting for the countries’ downgrade.
He noted that “even though this report takes a hard, thorough look at this issue around the world, it isn’t meant to be punitive.”
“We aren’t pointing the finger, but, rather, extending a hand in partnership to anyone who agrees that this is a problem we need to grapple with,” he said, explaining that the report is meant to be educative and an aid for better addressing “modern slavery” around the world.
The ambassador explained that the developments found in the report were not all negative, saying that “we continue to see modest gains on a global scale when it comes to anti-trafficking efforts,” noting a increase in victims identified, a move to adopt anti-trafficking laws and increased government involvement in fighting human trafficking across the globe.