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US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

  • VOA News

The U.S. State Department says widespread human trafficking is helping fuel vast fortunes on the world economy, leaving millions of people exploited by unscrupulous labor overseers and sex traders "in virtually every country of the world."

In its annual human rights report, the State Department called the exploitation "modern slavery," brutalizing girls and women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe, if they are even paid at all for their work.

"Human trafficking has no boundaries and respects no laws," the report said. "It exists in formal and informal labor markets of both lawful and illicit industries, affecting skilled and unskilled workers from a spectrum of educational backgrounds."

Speaking shortly after the release of the report, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: "Traffickers are both ruthless and relentless....Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable."

Kerry said human trafficking and modern slavery "is an industry" worth $150 billion annually. He said this year's report needs to be a call to action, and urged governments to strengthen and enforce their laws.

"Like every nation we have a responsibility to do better" in the U.S. to combat forced labor and sex trafficking, Kerry said.

"Human trafficking has no boundaries and respects no laws," the report said. "It exists in formal and informal labor markets of both lawful and illicit industries, affecting skilled and unskilled workers from a spectrum of educational backgrounds."

The report said "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."

Debt manipulation

The State Department said debt manipulation is one way workers can be exploited, forcing newly hired workers to borrow large sums of money to cover the costs of their recruitment or "job placement." The workers then have to spend a period of time, "sometimes years, working for very little or no wages to repay what they owe."

The report said the exploitation of workers is often linked to sex trafficking. It said that women who take jobs in isolated locations, such as at food service or retail businesses near mining, logging and agricultural camps, sometimes find themselves forced into prostitution to repay their recruitment costs.

The report ranks 188 governments across the world on how they combat human trafficking.

The State Department moved Cuba, with whom it has renewed diplomatic relations after five decades of hostilities, off its blacklist onto a watch list to see whether its island neighbor acts to improve its human rights record.

The report also elevated Malaysia, which the United States has included in a prospective Pacific Rim trade deal, to the watch list.

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