US: Key Allies Risk Consequences Over Human Trafficking Issues
US: Key Allies Risk Consequences Over Human Trafficking Issues

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted senior U.S. officials at the State Department Tuesday afternoon for an anti-human trafficking task force meeting.  Speaking after the Cabinet-level gathering, the ambassador who coordinates anti-trafficking efforts, Luis CdeBaca, said some key U.S. allies could see themselves downgraded in the State Department's annual human trafficking report.  

The State Department has issued its 'Trafficking in Persons Report' for the past 10 years. Using a four-tier scale, the report ranks countries' compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.    

Countries given a Tier 1 ranking are considered to be in full compliance, while those with a Tier 3 ranking are deemed not in compliance and not making significant efforts to combat trafficking.  

Within the second tier, there are two levels - the lower of which is the Tier 2 Watch List.  Nations on that list  are considered to be making efforts, but trafficking remains a significant problem and the country is not being as responsive as necessary.    

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca told reporters at the State Department that 2011 is the first year of the automatic downgrade provision.  He explained that countries on the Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years will have to either improve or be downgraded to the lowest level, Tier 3.

"First and foremost, the annual 'Trafficking In Persons Report' will be published again this year, notably with some of our key strategic allies at risk of automatic downgrades from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3, due to a potential failure to address trafficking in persons adequately," he said.

Russia, India, Iraq, Qatar and Yemen are among the nations that were on the Tier 2 Watch List in both 2009 and 2010.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice says it prosecuted more human trafficking cases in the past year than ever before.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said it is the third year in a row that his agency has been able to make that claim.  

The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor also announced a new initiative to streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking.  Federal agents and prosecutors will work across agency lines to combat trafficking threats, dismantle networks and prosecute traffickers.

CdeBaca said the task force recognized that more needs to be done to help trafficking victims - citizens and non-citizens alike - access resources they need in the United States. "We will seek to ensure that those who work in our juvenile justice, child welfare and immigration systems have the knowledge and training necessary to identify and help victims and become a true model for the rest of the world as far as victim care is concerned," he said.

He also said the State Department will establish an annual briefing for foreign diplomats and the domestic workers who travel with them, in an effort to increase the protections of household help.

Major forms of human trafficking include forced labor, sex trafficking and involuntary domestic servitude, among children and adults.