Home > crime & impunity, European System, immigration & asylum, labor rights, liberty & security of person > U.S. Publishes Annual Trafficking in Persons Report

U.S. Publishes Annual Trafficking in Persons Report

U.S. Department of State

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State put out its annual Trafficking in Persons Report.  This year, for the first time, the report includes a section on the United States; however, it was given the highest rating (complete compliance with the standards set in the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)).  In the words of Secretary Clinton, “This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it”.  This statement is an interesting echo of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s words at the presentation of the 2008 report, when she said, “Trafficking and exploitation plague all nations, and no country, even ours, is immune”.

This year’s report has a new image and content, much like the State Department’s website.  Along with statistics and analysis on human trafficking flows and recommendations to governments, the report also examines how the problem of human trafficking affects distinct groups, such as child soldiers, women, and those in post-disaster situations.  In addition, it takes a look at troubling State practices, the negative implications of using immigration enforcement and voluntary repatriation as responses to trafficking, and pays particular attention to the complicity of State agents in trafficking.

The report examines, and ranks in four tiers, the practices and policies of a large, but select group of States that are determined to be countries of origin, transit or destination in human trafficking rings.  States are ranked based on their efforts to  prevent, punish and eradicate human trafficking, using the following cited criteria:

• enactment of laws prohibiting severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by the TVPA, and provision of criminal punishments for trafficking offenses;

• implementation of human trafficking laws through vigorous prosecution of the prevalent forms of trafficking in the country;

• victim protection efforts that include access to services and shelter without unnecessary detention and with legal alternatives to removal to countries in which the victim would face retribution or hardship;

• proactive victim identification measures with systematic procedures to guide law enforcement and other governmental or government-supported front-line responders in the process of victim identification;

• criminal penalties prescribed for human trafficking offenses with a maximum of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty, or a more severe penalty;

• the extent to which a government ensures the safe, humane, and to the extent possible, voluntary repatriation and reintegration of victims;

• government funding and partnerships with NGOs to provide victims with access to primary health care,

counseling, and shelter, allowing them to recount their trafficking experiences to trained social counselors and law enforcement at a pace with minimal pressure;

• governmental measures to prevent human trafficking, including efforts to curb practices identified as contributing factors to human trafficking, including employers’ confiscation of foreign workers’ passports or allowing labor recruiters to charge excessive fees to prospective migrants – factors shown to contribute to forced labor;

and,

• the extent to which a government ensures victims are provided with legal and other assistance and that, consistent with domestic law, proceedings are not prejudicial against victims’ rights, dignity, or psychological well being.

Read the full report, fact sheet, and tier placement map for details on the 177 countries covered.

In the international human rights realm, human trafficking is increasingly being considered an area of potential State responsibility.  For example, the European Court of Human Right’s recent decision in Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia held both States responsible for violations of article 4 of the European Convention (slavery) for their failure to prevent, protect and punish human trafficking which resulted in the death of a young woman. Read more about this decision on the website of INTERIGHTS, a London-based NGO which submitted a third party intervention (or amicus brief) before the Court.

Framing human trafficking in terms of States’ obligations has been complicated because of a number of factors, including: its generally clandestine nature, the potential involvement of two or more States’ territories, the fact that typically State agents or agencies do not participate in the trafficking, and perceptions that trafficked persons were to be viewed as criminals and/or undocumented migrant workers rather than as victims.

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