The highly anticipated annual Trafficking in Persons Report was released by the U.S. State Department last week.
Outlining global trends and highlighting 188 country profiles, the TIP Report is considered to be the most comprehensive global report on human trafficking. It took me several days to go through it in detail, and since most people probably don’t have the time to sit down the read the full report, I’ve decided to create a summary of noteworthy points.
The report this year placed special emphasis on supply chains, highlighting the prevalence of labour trafficking.
“Although human trafficking is found in many trades, the risk is more pronounced in industries that rely upon low-skilled or unskilled labor.
This includes jobs that are dirty, dangerous, and difficult—those that are typically low-paying and undervalued by society and are often filled by socially marginalized groups including migrants, people with disabilities, or minorities.”
TIP REPORT 2015
Each country is placed into a category based on their commitment and active effort to combat human trafficking, ranging from Tier 1 (high commitment to end trafficking) to Tier 3 (low to non-existent commitment to end trafficking). Countries in tier 3 are at risk for sanctions.
TYPES OF MODERN DAY SLAVERY
The report covers 7 types of slavery:
Sex trafficking: When an adult is forced to engage in a commercial sex act (such as prostitution), due to threats, fraud, coercion, or physical force.
Child sex trafficking: When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, enticed, harboured, transported, provided, or obtained to perform a commercial sex act. Children who are prostituted are trafficking victims, even if “force” cannot be proved. There are no cultural exceptions.
Forced labour: Also referred to as labour trafficking, forced labour happens when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. Once a person is exploited in this way, it no longer matters whether the worker originally consented to work for an employer – the employer is a trafficker and the employee a trafficking victim. It is estimated that forced labor in the private economy reaps some $150 billion in illicit profits each year.
Bonded labour/debt bondage: As defined by Anti-Slavery International, a person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan, and they are tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay. The value of their work becomes greater than the original sum of money borrowed, and often the debts are passed onto the next generations.
Domestic servitude: When a domestic worker is not free to leave their employment, is abused, underpaid, or not paid at all, cannot take a day off, or is not permitted to move freely. Employment in private homes increases their vulnerability and isolation.
Forced child labour: Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, children can also be found in slavery or slavery-like situations. Example of a warning sign: a child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who requires them to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family, and does not offer the child the option of leaving.
Unlawful recruitment & use of child soldiers: Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants, and some are forced into other army-related roles, like porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with commanders and male combatants.
COUNTRIES THAT JUMPED IN RANK (IMPROVED) FROM LAST YEAR:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Papua New Guinea
- Saudi Arabia
COUNTRIES THAT DROPPED IN RANK (WORSENED) FROM LAST YEAR:
- Burkina Faso
- Republic of the Congo
- Costa Rica
- Marshall Islands
- South Sudan
- Trinidad & Tobago
LABOUR TRAFFICKING RISK WAS FOUND TO BE HIGHEST IN THE FOLLOWING SECTORS:
- Fishing and Aquaculture
- Housekeeping/Facilities Operation
- Textile Manufacturing
“Risks may also be higher in industries of a seasonal nature or where the turn-around time for production is extremely short. In these industries, the demand for labor increases drastically at the time of harvest or when a new product—be it a smartphone or a roadway—must be manufactured within a strict timeframe.
For example, East and South Asian migrant workers in the garment sector are vulnerable to forced labor and labor exploitation, including long working hours and forced overtime, especially during periods of high consumer demand.”
TIP REPORT 2015
THE EXTRACTION/HARVESTING/PRODUCTION OF THESE PRIMARY COMMODITIES INVOLVE VARYING DEGREES OF FORCED/CHILD LABOUR:
- Palm Oil
- On December 2, 2014, leaders representing Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Orthodox, and Islamic faiths met for the first time in history to sign a declaration pledging to end modern slavery and calling for action against it as a moral imperative.
- This past year, both Haiti and Burundi enacted their first anti-trafficking laws.
- In March 2015, the United Kingdom enacted the Modern Slavery Act. This requires companies with annual sales above a certain threshold to prepare annual statements outlining the steps they have taken to prevent human trafficking from occurring in their supply chain.
- More countries are running human trafficking hotlines.
As I read through the country reports, I began noticing some common themes:
There is confusion about the differences between trafficking and smuggling. Many governments were unclear on this point, often conflating human trafficking (which requires exploitation), and smuggling (where a migrant hires someone to help them leave a country). Ignorance in this area hinders anti-trafficking efforts. Don’t know the difference? Learn more here.
Victims are often criminally charged while traffickers are not. Sometimes trafficking victims are charged for unlawful acts they participated in while being trafficked, like illegal immigration, prostitution, or drug possession. This shows a lack of understanding regarding the force used by traffickers, and makes victims less likely to come forward.
Shelters for men are lacking. Only a handful of countries have shelters for male victims of human trafficking, as most are targeted toward women.
Corruption fuels trafficking and takes many forms. In the last year:
- Some off-duty police officers reportedly provided security at sex trade establishments (Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba, Belize)
- Judges received bribes from traffickers, and police were complicit in 40% of sex trafficking cases either as purchasers of commercial sex or as personal contacts of brothel owners (Argentina)
- Law enforcement did not adequately investigate accusations of forced labour in the construction sector for fear of recrimination by influential figures, including government officials (Azerbaijan)
- According to one report, politicians, police, and border security forces on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border allegedly used a token system to allow traffickers to evade arrest
- Some officials reported traffickers could bribe prosecutors to avoid being charged (Bolivia)
- Some local police accepted bribes or sexual services in exchange for notifying brothel and nightclub owners in advance of police raids (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
- Police, soldiers, and teachers were among the clients of children in prostitution (Botswana)
- Police officers robbed women in prostitution (Brazil)
- Corrupt officials in Cambodia,Thailand, and Malaysia cooperated with labour brokers to facilitate the transport of victims across the border
- Brothels in small towns were often frequented by police officers, dissuading potential trafficking victims from reporting their exploitation (Chile)
- In 2014, three Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) officials were allegedly implicated in visa and passport fraud and suspected labour trafficking involving foreign workers (Israel)
- Some brick kiln owners are affiliated with political parties or hold government positions, and used their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labour. In some cases, when bonded labourers attempted to escape or seek legal redress, police returned them to their traffickers, who would hold labourers and their families in private jails (Pakistan)
- A sitting member of Parliament had prior convictions for trafficking-related crimes (Albania)
- Authorities purchased sex from child trafficking victims, facilitated the prostitution of children, or protected establishments that exploited victims in the sex trade (South Sudan)
Diplomats from several countries have been caught bringing servants/staff from their home countries and forcing them into domestic work without proper wages, benefits, or freedom of movement.
NOTES FROM THE COUNTRY REPORTS:
After last year’s TIP Report, a journalist from The Gambia published a human trafficking article and was exiled by the government. In contrast, the Armenian government supported an anti-trafficking media contest with a cash prize designed to improve professional journalism.
In Mauritania, where slavery is widespread, the government imprisoned anti-slavery activists.
In Afghanistan, some families knowingly sell their children into prostitution, including for bacha baazi—where men, sometimes including government officials and security forces, use young boys for social and sexual entertainment.
In Peru, Sendero Luminoso, a terrorist group, recruits children into the narcotics trade.
Chinese nationals in Angola exploit Angolan children in brick-making factories, construction, and rice farming activities. Angolan adults use children under the age of 12 for forced criminal activity, as children cannot be criminally prosecuted.
Traffickers lure women to Austria by offering fictitious positions, including over social media, as au pairs, cleaners, waitresses, or dancers. Forced labour takes place in the agricultural, construction, catering, restaurant, and cleaning sectors, and among domestic laborers in diplomatic households.
In Bahrain, NGOs report male Bangladeshi unskilled workers are in high demand and are considered by employers to be exploitable, as they typically do not protest difficult work conditions or low pay. A study found that 70% of foreign workers borrowed money or sold property in their home countries to secure their jobs, increasing their vulnerability to debt bondage.
In Bangladesh, before their departure, many migrant workers assume debt to pay high recruitment fees, imposed legally by recruitment agencies belonging to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) and illegally by unlicensed sub-agents. This places some migrant workers at risk of debt bondage.
Within Azerbaijan, some children, particularly those of Romani descent, are subjected to forced begging and forced labor as roadside vendors and at tea houses and wedding facilities.
In Belize, underage girls are often found in brothels.
About 19% of the Papua New Guinea’s labour market is comprised of child workers.
In Qatar, employers have legal power to cancel residency permits, deny workers the ability to change employers, and deny permission to leave the country. This results in high levels of exploitation of migrant workers, many of whom are building stadiums for the World Cup.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIL (ISIS) abducts children to use as human shields, informants bomb makers, and suicide bombers, and kidnap women as sex slaves.
In Belarus, the government enforces state-sponsored forced labour, coercing workers in state-owned wood processing factories and construction workers employed in modernization projects at those factories from leaving their jobs. Employees cannot quit without their employers’ consent.
In Japan, the tradition of enjo kosai, or “compensated dating,” puts many children at risk for prostitution. Japan is one of the only developed countries that does not have a tier 1 ranking.
Canada is a source country for sex tourists that travel abroad to have sex with children. In a move to prevent exploitation within diplomatic households, the government recently limited which foreign diplomats where permitted to bring foreign domestic workers to Canada, and hosted the first ever mandatory trafficking awareness session for domestic workers in diplomatic households.
I would highly recommend checking out the full report here, as this is just a brief summary. Start with your own country and move on from there. I’d also recommend reading about the controversy surrounding the tier rankings of Malaysia and Cuba, and take a look at the disputed rankings list.
One thing is for sure – the exploitation of humans by other humans is pervasive, ugly, and widespread. No country or community is immune from the effects of greed, and we must all do out part to bring trafficking to an end.