The U.S. State Department says 19 countries, including some key American allies, are not doing enough to combat the trafficking of people around the world. A new State Department report says if those countries don't do better, they would be subject to U.S. economic sanctions.
The report is the second to be issued under an anti-trafficking law passed by Congress two years ago, and it is the last one before mandatory sanctions are to be applied against countries identified as deficient in combating the problem.
Of 89 countries reviewed, 19 including Russia, Saudi Arabia and NATO allies Greece and Turkey, are in the bottom category that would make them subject to penalties next year. But briefing reporters, Secretary of State Colin Powell put his stress on countries whose efforts against trafficking have improved the most, including South Korea which went from the third and lowest ranking to the top-level.
"South Korea, by the standards of the report, has made great strides in improving its record. Romania and Israel also have worked with us to significantly strengthen their anti-trafficking efforts. We hope that other countries will take similar steps," said Mr. Powell. "Countries that make a serious effort to address the problem will find a partner in the United States ready to help them design and implement effective programs. Countries that do not make such an effort, however, will be subject to sanctions under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act beginning next year."
American officials say accurate figures on the dimension of the problem are hard to come by. But the report estimates that between 700,000 and four million people worldwide, most of them women and children, are bought, sold, transported and held against their will for various forms of exploitation each year including sweatshop labor and prostitution.
The lowest-rated group of countries included several wealthy Gulf states where trafficked persons are said to be taken for household work and forced service as camel-jockeys. In civil war-ravaged Sudan, another third-tier country, the government is said to tolerate the enslavement of people by allied militias, while southern rebels are accused of abducting thousands of Ugandans as conscripted soldiers, sex slaves and laborers.
While Russia was listed for a second straight year in the lowest category, the senior adviser to Secretary Powell on human trafficking, Nancy Ely-Raphel, credited Moscow with initiating action on several fronts to deal with shortcomings. "Russia is working. Russia acknowledges it has a trafficking problem. It is providing funding for some victims' services and compensation, as well as protecting of rights," she said. "It is dealing with victims, they are not jailed any more or prosecuted for prostitution which had been going on before. And the Duma has requested advice and information from us to help draft a trafficking law. So that is all good news. However they don't have a trafficking law. And there are rarely cases that are investigated. So that is why they're still on tier-three. But they are making efforts."
Secretary of State Powell said trafficking "leaves no land untouched" and that approximately 50,000 people are trafficked into or through the United States each year. He said he hoped the report, drawn mainly from information from U.S. diplomatic posts and non-governmental organizations, would galvanize action on the problem across the globe.