Date: July 1, 2017
State Department Highlights North Korea Human Forced Labor Problem, China Status Downgraded
By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (ANS – July 1, 2017) -- “Human trafficking is as old as humankind. Regrettably, it’s been with us for centuries and centuries,” said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before releasing the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report earlier this week.
“Regrettably, our challenge is enormous,” Tillerson said, adding: “Today, globally, it’s estimated that there are 20 million victims of human trafficking. So, clearly, we have a lot of work to do and governments around the world have a lot of work to do.”
“Obviously, the consequences of our failure to act in this area has so many other negative impacts around the world: it breeds corruption; it undermines rule of law; it erodes the core values that underpin a civil society. Transnational criminal networks also – whether they be drug dealers, money launderers, or document forgers – are partly enabled by participating in human trafficking activities as well.
“When state actors or non-state actors use human trafficking, it can become a threat to our national security,” Tillerson said, in remarks released by the State Department in an official transcript of the event.
Secretary Tillerson said the North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the fruits of forced labor.
“Responsible nations simply cannot allow this to go on, and we continue to call on any nation that is hosting workers from North Korea in a forced labor arrangement to send those people home. Responsible nations also must take further action. China was downgraded to Tier Three status in this year’s report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking – including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China.”
Tillerson said American consumers and businesses “must also recognize they may have an unwitting connection to human trafficking. Supply chains creating many products that Americans enjoy may be utilizing forced labor. The State Department does engage with businesses to alert them to these situations so that they can take actions on their own to ensure that they are not in any way complicit.”
The Secretary said: “Most tragically, human trafficking preys on the most vulnerable, young children, boys and girls, separating them from their families, often to be exploited, forced into prostitution or sex slavery.”
He pointed out the State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report exposes human trafficking networks and holds their operators and their accomplices accountable.
He continued; “The focus of this year’s report is governments’ responsibilities under the Palermo Protocol to criminalize human trafficking in all its forms and to prosecute offenders. We urge the 17 countries that are not a party to the international Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons to reconsider their position and to join the other countries who have made that commitment.”
Tillerson said the 2017 TIP Report “also emphasizes governments must put forward tougher anti-corruption laws and enforce them, so that traffickers do not get a free pass for those who choose to turn a blind eye.”
“Importantly, nations must educate law enforcement partners on how to identify and respond to those who dishonorably wear the law enforcement uniform or the military uniform by allowing trafficking to flourish. The most devastating examples are police officers and those who we rely upon to protect us, that they become complicit through bribery, by actually working in brothels themselves, or obstructing investigations for their own profit. Complicity and corruption that allows human trafficking from law enforcement officials must end.
“We know shutting down these networks is challenging. But these challenges cannot serve as an excuse for inaction,” Tillerson said.
The 2017 TIP Report also recognizes those governments making progress, he said. “We want to give them credit for what they are doing. Last year, governments reported more than 9,000 convictions of human-trafficking crimes worldwide, up from past years.”
Tillerson highlighted three examples:
** Last July, the president of Afghanistan ordered an investigation into institutionalized sexual abuse of children by police officers, including punishment for perpetrators. In January, a new law was enacted criminalizing bacha baazi, a practice that exploits boys for social and sexual entertainment. The government continues to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers – including complicit government officials.
** In the Ukraine – a country that has been on the Watch List for years – the office of the prosecutor general issued directives to improve investigations of trafficking, and increased efforts to root out complicity, including convictions of police officers. A teacher at a government-run school, a government-run boarding school for orphans, has been arrested for trying to sell a child. And officials are now on notice that complicity in trafficking will be met with strict punishment.
** In the Philippines, increased efforts to combat trafficking have led to the investigation of more than 500 trafficking cases and the arrest of 272 suspects – an 80 percent increase from 2015.
Secretary Tillerson continued: “Given the scale of the problem, though, all of these countries, and many more, have much to do. But it is important to note their progress and encourage their continued commitment.
“As with other forms of illicit crime, human trafficking is becoming more nuanced and more difficult to identify. Much of these activities are going underground and they’re going online.
“The State Department is committed to continuing to develop with other U.S. agencies, as well as our partners abroad, new approaches to follow these activities wherever they go and to train law enforcement to help them improve their technologies to investigate and prosecute these crimes.”
To that end, Secretary Tillerson highlighted a State Department initiative announced earlier this year.
The Program to End Modern Slavery will increase funding for prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts to reduce the occurrence of modern slavery wherever it is most prevalent.
“The program is the result of the important support of Congress, especially from Chairman Corker, [from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee], and other leaders committed to bringing more people out from under what is a crime against basic human rights,” said Tillerson.
The Program to End Modern Slavery will fund transformational programs but also set about to raise commitments of $1.5 billion in support from other governments and private donors, while developing the capacity of foreign governments and civil society to work to end modern slavery in their own countries.
Also present at the report launch event was Advisor to the President of the United States, Ivanka Trump, who said: “Human trafficking is a pervasive human rights issue affecting millions, no matter their gender, age, or nationality. It is often a profoundly secret crime.
“One of the greatest challenges is to merely identify those trapped in modern slavery. Even conservative estimates conclude that some 20 million people around the world, including right here in the United States, are trapped in human trafficking situations, terrible circumstances of exploitation, including so many young girls and boys who are victims of unthinkable tragedy of child sex trafficking.”
Ms. Trump said this year’s report “emphasizes the responsibility all governments have to prosecute human traffickers. It also provides an opportunity for countries to see how others are fighting human trafficking and to adopt the most effective strategies and tactics, while renewing their own resolve in this struggle.”
She said that on a personal level, as a mother, “this is much more than a policy priority. It is a clarion call to action in defense of the vulnerable, the abused, and the exploited. Last month, while in Rome, I had an opportunity to talk firsthand with human trafficking survivors. They told me their harrowing stories, how they were trapped in this ugly, dark web, how they survived, how they escaped, and how they are very slowly reconstructing their lives.”
Ms. Trump added: "Combating this crime here in the United States as well as around the globe is in both our moral and our strategic interest." Ending human trafficking "is a major foreign policy priority for the Trump administration," she said, according to a CNN report.
Ms. Trump said that here in the United States, we have our own Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, comprised exclusively of survivors.
“We cannot meaningfully address this pervasive issue without the brave voice of survivors at the table. They can help us understand what they experienced and they will play a leading role in solving this pressing crisis,” she said.
“These survivors are not only victims; they are heroes. So are the courageous crusaders who have committed themselves to fight human trafficking wherever it exists.”
As part of the 2017 TIP Report, the State Department recognized individuals who have been tireless in their efforts to combat human trafficking.
At the meeting to release the latest TIP report, Ms.Trump said the State Department honored, “a police officer, whose efforts led to the identification of 350 children forced into labor; a union leader, who protects workers in the fishing industry; a judge, who played a critical role in drafting her country’s first anti-trafficking legislation; a journalist, who shines a light on forced labor; a faith leader, who works to protect vulnerable migrants; a sociologist, whose groundbreaking research considers the structural challenges affecting vulnerable populations; an advocate, who founded an NGO to care for child sex trafficking victims; and a survivor, the first in her country to win civil damages in a sex trafficking case.
“Each of these heroes is a source of inspiration. They all have different backgrounds but are united in this shared cause. We celebrate and we stand with each of you.”
She concluded: “So as we mark the release of this year’s report, let us remember the victims saved from the unimaginable horrors of human trafficking. Let us recommit ourselves to finding those still in the shadows of exploitation. And let us celebrate the heroes who continue to shine a light on the darkness of human trafficking.”
The new US State Department report lists China as among the worst offenders for human trafficking, joining countries including Russia, Syria and Iran on the lowest rung of the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
What the TIP Tiers mean
Tier 1: Governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's (TVPA) minimum standards.
Tier 2: Governments do not fully comply, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.
Tier 2 Watch List: Governments do not fully comply, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance, as well as other negative indicators.
Tier 3: Governments do not fully comply and are not making significant efforts to do so.
(Source: US State Department)
China, the report said, "does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, China was downgraded to Tier 3" -- the lowest level.
According to the State Department, the TIP report is "the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts."
It rates nations on how effectively governments are tackling the human trafficking industry on a scale from the worst on Tier 3 to best on Tier 1.
In a CNN report, the broadcast outlet explained that if a nation sits on the Tier 2 Watch List for two years, it's automatically downgraded to Tier 3, unless the US Secretary of State decides to waive it for a maximum of two years.
China was granted a waiver last year. This year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had the power to grant another one, but has opted not to.
"China was downgraded to Tier 3 action in this year's report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China," Tillerson said.
Interested individuals may download the report at: https://www.state.gov/j/tip/
Photo captions: 1) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 2) Ivanka Trump at the event to release the latest TIP Report (CNN Photo). 3) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.