US Trafficking in Persons Report 2013

Trafficking in persons report - June 2013 (cover)
On 19 June, John Kerry, US Secretary of State, released the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2013.

Each year since 2001, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the US State Department has produced a legislatively mandated report outlining major trends and issues in combating human trafficking and providing country by country analyses and ratings. The 2013 Report assesses 188 governments, including the United States, on their compliance with minimum standards set out in the Trafficking Victim Protections Act 2000 (TVPA).  As the 2011 Report noted, the TVPA standards are largely (though not entirely) consistent with the framework for addressing trafficking established by the Protocol.

The TIP Report is seen by the US Government as its principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking

The TIP Report groups countries into four categories according to the State Department's assessment of governments' efforts to combat trafficking:
  • Tier 1 -- countries deemed to fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards
  • Tier 2 -- countries whose governments are deemed to not fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so
  • Tier 2 watch list -- tier 2 countries in which: 1) the number of victims of trafficking is very significant or increasing; 2) the State Department has found no evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking (e.g. increased investigations or prosecutions); or 3) the determination that a country was making significant efforts was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps in the coming year, and
  • Tier 3 -- countries whose governments are deemed not to fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards and who are not making significant efforts to do so.
In making its assessments, the TIP Office draws upon information from U.S. embassies, government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, research trips and information submitted to Unfortunately, country narratives do not specify the nature or number of sources upon which the ranking is based, and data are not fully explained or attributed.

This year 30 countries, including Australia and the US, achieved Tier 1 status.  Ninety two countries were assessed as being at Tier 2, and 44 were placed on the Tier 2 Watch List. Twenty one countries were rated at Tier 3.

The commentary on Australia noted that the Government "sustained efforts to provide protection to identified victims of trafficking, though the number of identified victims remained low" and the number of prosecutions only "modest".  Comments were made about the perceived vulnerability to exploitation of student visa holders and of people recruited to work temporarily in Australia.  Recommendations included increased training for police and other front line workers; more proactive identification of victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups; and improved access for victims to civil remedies and financial compensation.

The 2103 TIP Report reflects for the first time the operation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorization of 2008, which introduced a limit on the number of years on which a country could be on the Tier 2 Watch List.  As a result, China, Russia, and Uzbekistan were all downgraded to Tier 3 in this year's ratings.  (Both Russia and China had been on the Tier 2 Watch List for nine years and Uzbekistan for six.)  

As Tier 3 countries, they may be subject to limited, unilateral sanctions, whereby the US Government may withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign aid, and oppose them receiving such assistance from international financial institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.  Any such sanctions would come into force on 1 October.  However, the President is able to fully or partially waive  sanctions for reasons which include US national interest. 

In contrast, Azerbaijan, the Congo and Iraq demonstrated sufficient progress to move off the Watch List and progress to Tier 2.  Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, Malaysia, the Maldives, and Thailand remain on Tier 2 watch list, but face automatic downgrade to Tier 3 in 2014 if their governments do not demonstrate significant process. 

Unsurprisingly, Russia and China are reported to have reacted angrily to the their Tier 3 rating, with Russia expressing its "indignation" and China decrying "unilateral or arbitrary judgements". 

The TIP Report also includes a legislatively mandated list of countries recruiting and using child soldiers. (The 2013 list includes: Burma; Central African Republic; Chad; Democratic Republic of Congo; Rwanda; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Syria; and Yemen.)  Governments on this list are subject to restrictions on certain US military assistance.  However, since the law entered into effect in 2010, these sanctions have been waived or partially waived by Presidential Determination on the grounds of US national interest.  In January this year, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the US to:
enact and apply a full prohibition of arms exports, including small arms and light weapons as well as any kind of military assistance to countries where children are known to be, or may potentially be,recruited or used in armed conflict and/or hostilities. .... [and] to review and amend the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act with the view to withdrawing the possibility to allow for presidential waivers to these countries.


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