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2011 Trafficking Report Subject of House Hearing

On October 27, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights held a hearing, “The Trafficking in Persons Report 2011: Truth, Trends, and Tier Rankings.”

Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) said, “The report has been a catalyst for improvement – often dramatic improvements – in the efforts of governments to address human trafficking within their borders and regions. With a combination of encouragement, persuasion and sustained pressure via sanctions imposed by the United States, countries around the world have created or amended over 120 laws to combat human trafficking, and, in the past three years alone, an estimated 113,000 victims have been identified and assisted worldwide. Individuals within each country can use the report to assess their government’s commitment and to lobby their government to take specific measures. The G/TIP Office [Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons] also coordinates technical assistance and aid for many of the countries wishing to improve their anti-trafficking response. The result has been a worldwide anti-trafficking surge, largely dependent on the credibility, accuracy, and faithful implementation of the report, including the tier framework.”

“I hope the witnesses can highlight the unique challenges facing many African and conflict-stricken countries in addressing the issue of trafficking,” said Ranking Member Donald Payne (D-NJ). He continued, “According to the report, only two African nations – Nigeria and Mauritius – are fully complying with the minimum standards for combatting human trafficking, therefore qualifying them as Tier 1 [countries]. Ten African countries fall within Tier 3, which makes them subject to aid restrictions. In Africa, these potential aid restrictions are cause for concern. Many countries on the continent have been burdened by debilitating conflicts and strife. African conflicts have displaced citizens, traumatized local communities, and orphaned children, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in these conflict areas where government control is often limited. Armed groups may abduct women and children for sexual slavery and often recruit children for their ranks. Limited income earning opportunities in conflict zones also contribute to these problems. Exploitation thrives under these conditions.”

Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department, discussed, in part, the assistance the State Department provides to countries in their anti-trafficking efforts. “In addition to our robust diplomatic efforts, this is another area where the Trafficking in Persons Office is making a difference, through our International Programs foreign assistance funds. In the last two years, my office received 998 applications for assistance from 546 organizations requesting a total of $547 million. We know that it will never be possible to give every organization the help they want. And we know that we have a responsibility to be responsible custodians of taxpayer dollars. That’s why our office has implemented a rigorous and transparent review process to ensure that every cent of our foreign assistance appropriation is spent responsibly and is put to the use where it will do the most good. To answer the requests for $547 million which we received through funding applications – the vast majority of which described projects of tremendous merit – our office administered a foreign assistance budget for the last two years of $39.1 million. Based on an estimate that there are up to 27 million victims of trafficking worldwide, that funding total provides a little more than 72 cents per victim per year. This year’s solicitation is out, and we hope to receive innovative and impactful proposals. The country-specific tier rankings and diagnostic assessments included in the TIP Report help us determine where we should be allocating these funds. To maximize the impact of our efforts, we identify priority countries for programming. We generally target our foreign assistance to Tier 3, Tier 2 Watch List, and, in some cases, Tier 2 countries. This linkage demonstrates that the Report isn’t just an exercise in finger-pointing at countries that aren’t doing a good job, but is an important tool for determining where our foreign assistance dollars can be used most effectively.”

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs at the State Department Robert Blake, Jr. focused on the issues and challenges facing specific countries in that region of the world. For example, he noted that “The Department upgraded India to Tier 2 in the 2011 TIP Reportbecause of the government’s greater resolve combating its trafficking problem, particularly bonded labor. The government of India increased law enforcement efforts through the establishment of over 80 Anti-Human Trafficking Units, ratified the UN TIP Protocol, achieved landmark convictions against bonded labor traffickers with punishments of significant prison sentences, and increased rescue and rehabilitation efforts of thousands of trafficking victims in many parts of India. India’s anti-TIP efforts have continued since the publication of the 2011TIP Report. At the federal level we have seen efforts by the Ministry of Labor, which called for all state labor secretaries to appoint…officers to tackle forced child labor and bonded labor. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also been instrumental in broadly recognizing the anti-TIP contributions of one judge of the Mumbai court (who has taken over and cleared hundreds of sex trafficking cases and issued rehabilitation orders for 1,200 rescued women and girls) and has asked Judge Swati Chauhan to share her anti-trafficking court model widely across India. Bonded labor remains a persistent and difficult challenge in India’s anti-trafficking agenda in all jurisdictions, but in August, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights announced a new call to focus government efforts on the elimination of bonded labor…Although this progress is clear, our hard work continues. Our embassy and consulates are intensively engaged with national, regional and local counterparts to combat TIP. We look for additional opportunities to partner with the government of India to continue progress and offer our assistance to those in need through G/TIP-funded programming.”

Joseph Yun, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department, said, “The most commonly identified form of human trafficking is sex trafficking, defined as the act of coercing, forcing, or deceiving a person into prostitution, or keeping a person in prostitution through coercion. Inducing a child into prostitution is also defined as sex trafficking under the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, even when coercion, force, or deception is not involved. Sex trafficking can also be the result of debt bondage, where women and girls are forced to stay in prostitution until they are able to pay off the unlawful debts they have supposedly incurred through their transportation or recruitment. The ILO [International Labor Organization] estimates that 79 percent of identified trafficking victims are women or girls. In most countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the trafficking of women and children for sex is a widely recognized problem, and the laws and regulations are targeted to these particular groups of victims.” Mr. Yun then described efforts underway in specific countries: “In Indonesia, for example, the government has shown progress in punishing traffickers. At a two-day seminar on child sex trafficking held in Manado, Indonesia in October 2011, the head of the Police Women and Children’s Unit delivered a powerful presentation outlining the work her unit had accomplished on TIP, graphically demonstrating that despite limited resources, she was able to investigate and refer for prosecution dozens of cases, rescuing more than 100 TIP victims. From 2007 to 2010, her unit had worked on more than 66 cases involving 71 adult and 80 child victims, leading to the arrest of 96 offenders and the prosecution of more than 21 trafficking cases. Each year, the number of cases under investigation and the number of victims rescued has grown.”

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