Human trafficking within borders especially challenging issue: U.S. report

India continues to be placed in Tier 2 on the 1-3 country trafficking scale.

Updated - June 22, 2019 12:24 am IST

Published - June 21, 2019 09:03 am IST - Washington

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

The U.S. State Department has released its 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, highlighting the need for action against domestic trafficking in human beings. India continued to be placed in Tier 2 on the country trafficking scale.

“There are 25 million adults and children suffering from labour and sex trafficking all over the world – including in the United States and, indeed, in this very city in which we’re sitting here today,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said at Thursday morning’s report launch at the State Department, with First Daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump and other administration officials and diplomats in attendance.

The 2019 report highlights the national nature of trafficking: in 77% of the cases, victims are trafficked within their own countries of residence, rather than across borders. The number of victims trafficked domestically was high compared to foreign victims being trafficked in all regions of the world except Western and Central Europe, the Middle East, and certain East Asian countries, as per the report. Victims of sex trafficking were more likely to be trafficked across borders while victims of forced labour were typically exploited within their own countries, the report says, citing International Labour Organisation (ILO) data.

“These designations — Tier 1, 2, 3 — aren’t just words on paper. They carry consequences. Last year, President Trump restricted certain types of assistance to 22 countries that were ranked for Tier 3 in our 2018 TIP Report,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The TIP report’s conclusion stresses that while much has been done since the Palermo Protocol (an international framework to tackle trafficking, established in 2000) in terms of countries building legal frameworks to prosecute traffickers and provide care for survivors, more needs to be done , especially in terms of tackling domestic trafficking.

“…addressing human trafficking at home also takes political courage — in inspecting local sectors and industries, investigating official power structures that may condone or facilitate such activities, and ending impunity for crimes that have long been seen as accepted local and cultural practices,” the report says.

Categorisation on efforts to meet minimum standards

The report categorises countries into three groups based on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), U.S. legislation enacted in 2000. The categorisation is based not on the magnitude of a country’s trafficking problem but on efforts to meet minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

The report contains country narratives and category designations for all countries, including the U.S. (Tier 1).

India was placed (i.e., remained) in Tier 2, which comprises “countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”

“The Government of India does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore India remained on Tier 2,” the report said, highlighting efforts by the government to crack down on trafficking, including convicting traffickers, “initiating a high-profile investigation into one case that allegedly involved officials complicit in sex trafficking at a government-funded shelter” and raising awareness around trafficking.

The report also highlighted the government’s failures in this regard.

“The government took some action following reports of government complicity in forced labour and sex trafficking, although the systemic failure to address forced labour and sex trafficking in government-run and government-funded shelter homes remained a serious problem. The government did not report information on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers, or on trafficking victims identified and referred to care…Authorities sometimes penalised victims for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit, “it said.

The recommendations for India include amending the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the Penal Code to “include forced labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud, or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking offence,” and to establish Anti-Human Trafficking Units in all districts with dedicated funding and clear mandates.

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