Yet much work is being done to fight this injustice, as Secretary Kerry noted in his remarks the “growing network of NGOs and advocacy groups who work hard every single day to bring modern-day slavery to a permanent end.”
One official at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was glad the report highlighted the work of these non-governmental organizations.
Hilary Chester, associate director of the Anti-Trafficking Program at the conference’s Migration and Refugee Services committee, told CNA their project fights maritime trafficking in collaboration with other Church entities across the globe.
With Thailand, for instance, Church groups were helping the government improve the maritime trafficking problem. Chester said she was “happy to see that work and those partnerships being highlighted in the report.”
Pope Francis also received praise Thursday from the State Department’s Susan Coppedge, the Ambassador-at-Large in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Coppedge praised the Vatican’s human trafficking summit held earlier in June, which “explored the need for victim-supported services instead of punishments for crimes committed under duress.”
“While Pope Francis has a unique ability to gather and rally diverse groups, leaders across communities – businesses, governments, and NGOs – can likewise demonstrate the power of collaboration in fighting the scourge of modern slavery,” she said.
Another focus of the report was the tier rankings of countries. The U.S. government, in cooperation with embassies around the globe, foreign governments, and non-governmental organizations, researches the practice of trafficking worldwide and ranks countries in a tier system based on the seriousness of their trafficking problems and the governments’ responses to curb trafficking.
Tier 1 countries meet the “minimum standards” of fighting trafficking, set forth in the 2000 law, which include prohibition of and sufficient punishment for trafficking.
Tier 3 countries, the lowest tier, not only fail to meet the U.S. government’s trafficking standards but also are not fighting enough to prevent trafficking. For such countries the U.S. President has the authority to withhold official “non-humanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance,” among other possible actions.
Countries currently on the Tier 3 list include Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, and Zimbabwe. Countries like Burma and Uzbekistan were downgraded in 2016 to Tier 3 countries, as well as Djibouti, Haiti, Suriname, and Papua New Guinea.
The 2016 report’s tier rankings received some praise but also measures of criticism from the author of the law that first mandated the report, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). He said that despite some accurate ratings in the 2016 report the administration based some of its rankings on politics.
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For example, China and Cuba should have been placed on the worst offenders tier, an omission attributable to politics, he said. They instead remained on the next tier up, the Tier 2 Watch List reserved for countries who are “making significant efforts” to fight trafficking but need to be watched closely because of the seriousness of their trafficking problems.
“China is the black hole of human trafficking,” Rep. Smith contested, adding that it is not making acceptable progress in fighting trafficking -- its convictions have fallen over 60 percent in six years.
Yet China’s one-child forced family planning policy – now a two-child policy for many families – has brought about a demographic crisis of about 118 boys born per 100 girls born, more than the world normal 103-106 boys per 100 girls. This has created a market for sex trafficking, he said.
Other human rights abuses in China include North Koreans working in “slave-like conditions” and organ harvesting and slave labor inflicted upon the prison population, he said, which completely merit a Tier 3 grade for the country.
“Tier rankings must be earned, not meted out as gifts to economic and security partners,” he insisted.
“The President continues to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Cuban people for the sake of his fanciful friendship with the Castro brothers,” Rep. Smith said of Cuba remaining on the Tier 2 watch list instead of being downgraded.