A report released today on the trafficking of women, children and laborers around the world written by the U.S. State Department is nothing less than a call to further action, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
"This, the 10th Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), shows the remarkable progress the world has made in recognizing and combating modern day slavery in the last 10 years, but it also shows the cruel opportunism of those who exploit others for economic gain," said Smith, the author of the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which mandated the annual reports, as well as increased penalties for traffickers and provided assistance for victims.
"The world economic downturn has created the perfect storm for sex and labor trafficking," Smith said. "Now, more than ever, we must redouble our efforts to prioritize and enforce laws against using men, women, and children as slaves--and to put traffickers behind bars. America has lead the way on this issue, gaining many allies in the fight. We must continue the fight together to bring hope and freedom to the enslaved."
Smith also expressed disappointment and grave concern that India, China and Vietnam were not listed as Tier 3 nations. India and China remain on the Watch List--after being warned that they are near to Tier 3--for many years, while Vietnam is listed on the Watch List after being a Tier 2 country for four years.
"If we are willing to hold the Dominican Republic to account, as we should, it's outrageous that China, Vietnam and India get a free pass," he said. "By any objective analysis, they would be Tier 3 countries. Ignoring this reality puts additional children and women at risk."
Click here to view 2010 report.
"Women comprise at least fifty-six percent of trafficking victims in the world, and women along with children are the primary victims of sex trafficking," said Smith, who fears that deteriorated economic conditions will make human trafficking worse. "Some 33 countries last year alone enacted new legislation or amended legislation to combat trafficking, and prosecutions have increased in some countries. Nonetheless, prosecutions have stalled in other parts of the world." He noted that 62 countries have never prosecuted a trafficker under laws in compliance with the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which was adopted the same year as Smith's Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
"Our Tier ranking system, with the real threat of sanctions, is one of our most effective ways of encouraging countries to take the minimal actions required to stop trafficking," Smith explained. "This year the Administration missed the opportunity to press India and China, both of which are facing a trafficking explosion of historic proportions due to the loss of 100 million girls from their countries, largely to sex-selective abortion. For the sake of the women and girls who will otherwise be trafficked by the millions to Northwestern India and China where the men will have no brides, it is of the utmost urgency that these countries take immediate and comprehensive action to meet at least the minimum standards to combat human trafficking.
"Vietnam also squarely belongs in Tier 3 because we have solid evidence that Vietnam is a source country for labor trafficking," Smith said, referring to the fact that Vietnam's labor export companies are fully or partially owned by the state and that Vietnam has lost numerous labor trafficking lawsuits--but refuses to pay the judgments. "Far from changing its practices, Vietnam has intimidated, harassed and threatened family members and repatriated victims who filed petitions to request investigation of the traffickers," he said.
Smith welcomed the newly expanded section of the report covering the United States.
"The United States fights human trafficking within its own borders, not just of foreign nationals being lured or forced into slavery here, but of our own citizens, often just adolescents of 13 years old, being sexually exploited on our streets," he said. "I anticipate that this section of the report--being compared side by side with other countries--along with the Attorney General's yearly report will spur the United States to do more to tackle human trafficking within our own borders."
U.S. efforts to combat trafficking are listed on page 338 of the report. The report ranked the U.S. as a Tier 1 country, in compliance with the TVPA. The U.S. Justice Department is expected to release its own report on U.S. domestic efforts in the near future.
In addition to the original 2000 law which provided for the annual reports, Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims.
A senior member of the House International Relations Committee, Smith said the report critiques and comprehensively details the progress or lack of progress that countries have made in combating trafficking. The report shows 22 countries making improvements on the tiered system, and 19 getting worse.
Smith pointed to the number of convictions to underscore the impact of the law. The report shows that after Smith pushed through his second law, The Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2003, the Department of State was required to collect data on convictions as part of the analysis. The 2010 TIP report shows that there were over 4,166 trafficking convictions worldwide in 2009 (compared to 2,983 in the 2008 report and 3,026 in the 2004 report) and 116 countries now have anti-trafficking laws patterned after Smith's law--where they previously had little or no protections.
"Convictions rates are tell-tale signs as to whether countries are following through on their commitments to fight trafficking," Smith said. "In the end, the perpetrators must be sufficiently punished for their heinous acts or they will calculate that the money gained from exploiting women, children, and laborers, is greater than the threat of prison. We must make this an easy calculation for them--that trafficking is not worth the risk."
Provisions of Smith's groundbreaking law are laid out on pages 366-367 of the report.
"The TIP report shows what we have accomplished and that we must continue with our strategy with new fervor," Smith said, referring to the report's explanation of the three "Ps'-- prosecution, protection and prevention as well as the victim-oriented three "Rs'--rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration. "There is hope for the victims of human trafficking. We have and we will work to set them free," Smith concluded.