US human trafficking report adds 6 countries to worst offenders list

[JURIST] The US State Department (DOS) [official website] on Tuesday added Chad, Eritrea, Malaysia, Niger, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe to its list of countries with the worst human trafficking records in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 [materials; introduction, PDF]. The countries join Burma, Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Kuwait, Mauritania, Niger, North Korea, Papau New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria as countries that do not comply with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) [22 USC § 78 text], and are not considered to be taking "significant actions" to comply with the TVPA. The report also included a list of 52 countries that the DOS said must increase their efforts to combat the problem or face possible sanctions. Announcing the publication of the report [statement text], Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] underscored the importance of combating what she called "modern slavery":

Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They labor in fields and factories under brutal employers who threaten them with violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg in the streets, fearful of the consequences if they fail to earn their daily quota. They are women, men, and children of all ages, and they are often held far from home with no money, no connections, and no way to ask for help.

This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain. Human trafficking is a crime with many victims: not only those who are trafficked, but also the families they leave behind, some of whom never see their loved ones again.

Trafficking has a broad global impact as well. It weakens legitimate economies, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, shatters families, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. And it is an affront to our basic values and our fundamental belief that all people everywhere deserve to live and work in safety and dignity.
Clinton added that the current economic recession has "ma[de] more people susceptible to the false promises of traffickers." Also Tuesday, the African Union (AU) [official website] announced the start of the AU Commission Initiative against Trafficking [outline, DOC; materials], a three-year plan during which the AU hopes to improve conditions on the continent.

This is the ninth annual report on human trafficking by the DOS, following 2008 [materials], 2007 and 2006 [JURIST reports] reports. Earlier this year, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea [JURIST news archive] Vitit Muntarbhorn [UN appointment release] cited the country [JURIST report] for various human rights violations including human trafficking. In July 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [HRW materials; JURIST report] calling on the Saudi government to institute new laws to protect its domestic workers from becoming victims of trafficking.


 

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