Human trafficking increased dramatically worldwide in 2010, according to a new State Department report that slammed several Asian nations for failing to make “significant efforts” to combat the multi-billion-dollar global trade in humans.
“Unfortunately, because of the ease of transportation and the global communications that can reach deep into villages with promises and pictures of what a better life might be, we now see that more human beings are exploited than before,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in releasing the 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report in Washington.
“There are as many as 27 million men, women, and children,” she said.
Clinton said that the measure of success in the fight against human trafficking can no longer be whether a country has simply passed laws.
“Now we have to make sure that laws are implemented and that countries are using the tools that have been created for that,” she said.
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca said that while many countries now have laws in place to prevent human trafficking, governments must do more to enforce them.
“The responsibility of governments to prosecute traffickers and provide justice to trafficking victims cannot be outsourced to NGOs, and victim protection should not be,” he said.
“The systemic and structural steps needed to prevent human trafficking must reflect a cultural change that rejects modern slavery, addresses the demand that fuels this crime, and requires personal responsibility. But the foundations of such efforts must be found in government action.”
Burma this year remained in Tier 3, where it has been ranked since the report was first compiled in 2001.
While Burma has made progress in curbing the international trafficking of women and children into the sex trade, the military regime hasn't stopped forced labor and the unlawful military conscription of children, the report said.
key human trafficking issues, most notably the complicity of public officials and the use of forced labor, the Government of Burma is not making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” it said.
“The Burmese regime’s gross economic mismanagement and human rights abuses, coupled with the Burma military’s continued widespread use of forced and child labor, as well as recruitment of child soldiers, remain the driving factors behind Burma’s significant trafficking problem, both within the country and abroad.”
Cambodia, meanwhile, remained a Tier 2 country, based on what the report described as a lack of government progress in prosecuting human traffickers and protecting trafficking victims.
“Corruption at all levels continued to impede progress in combating trafficking and fostering an enabling environment for trafficking,” the report said.
China remained on the Tier 2 watch list for the seventh consecutive year in the report, which cited forced prison labor, abduction of children for forced begging and thievery, and involuntary servitude of children, migrant workers, and abductees.
“The government did not demonstrate evidence of significant efforts to address all forms of trafficking or effectively protect victims,” the report said.
The report said trafficking is most pronounced among China’s internal migrant population, which is estimated to exceed 150 million people.
“Forced labor remains a notable problem, including in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax supervision in the poorer regions of China,” it said.
The report also cited reports of forced labor involving Chinese children, including forced begging.
Tens of billions annually
The report kept North Korea at the lowest ranking, citing estimates that as many of 70 percent of the tens of thousands of North Korean refugees in China are female trafficking victims.
Pyongyang also uses forced labor and recruits citizens to work abroad for North Korean entities, often withholding their wages until they return home.
Most commonly, women and girls from one of North Korea’s poorest border areas cross into China and are then sold and re-sold as “brides.”
North Korea’s government does not acknowledge the existence of human trafficking either within its own borders or transnationally and actively punishes trafficking victims for acts they commit as a direct result of being trafficked, the report said.
The TIP report moved Laos up to Tier 2 from the Tier 2 watch list, citing "significant" efforts by the government to fully comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking.
Laos stepped up efforts to investigate trafficking offenses and to prosecute and punish traffickers, it said.
But a severe lack of resources, poor training of officials, and ongoing corruption still impede the government’s ability to combat trafficking.
Vietnam also remained on the Tier 2 watch list.
Vietnam, the report said, was prosecuting some sex-trafficking offenders and making efforts to protect victims. But it cited few gains in prosecuting labor-traffickers and protecting victims.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transfer, or harboring of people by means of coercion for the purpose of exploitation.
The United Nations has said human trafficking remains the second largest illegal trade next to drugs, with traffickers earning tens of billions of U.S. dollars annually. It also estimated that 2.5 million trafficked people worldwide come from the Asia-Pacific region.
Reported by Joshua Lipes.