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U.S. State Department Releases Trafficking in Persons 2015 Report

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Since 2001, the U.S. Department of State has released a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This report examines trafficking country-by-country, ranks each country and gives suggestions to each country’s government to improve the fight against modern slavery.

The 2015 report begins with, among others items, a list of all situations that are now considered forms of human trafficking.

    • Sex trafficking
    • Child sex trafficking
    • Forced labor
    • Bonded labor or debt bondage
    • Domestic servitude
    • Forced child labor
    • Unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers

Part of this report focuses on trafficking in global supply chains. As our desires for consumer goods grows, along with the increased production of new items all at affordable prices, trafficking becomes more and more common.

Although human trafficking is found in many trades, the risk is  more pronounced in industries that rely upon low-skilled or unskilled labor. This includes jobs that are dirty, dangerous and difficult – those that are typically low-paying and under-valued by society and are often filled by socially-marginalized groups including migrants, people with disabilities or minorities.

The report goes on to note that certain industries may face intense pressure under deadlines, which often puts workers at risk by working longer hours or under dangerous conditions.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates there are 232 million migrant workers globally. Of course, many of them work legitimate jobs with fair wages, but because of a variety of reasons, migrant workers are at risk trafficking. They are also at risk for living under horrid situations, being underpaid and being abused.

The report maintains that there is a link between certain forms of labor trafficking, industries  and work situations and sex trafficking.

Any discovery of raw materials will necessarily lead to a large influx of workers and other individuals, some of whom will create a demand for the commercial sex industry. In Senegal, a gold rush resulted in rapid migration from West Africa; some of these migrants were women and children exploited in sex trafficking. Likewise, in the oil industry, individuals are sometimes recruited with false promises of work opportunities, but instead are exploited in the sex trade. Service providers in areas near camps surrounding large-scale oil extraction facilities, such as the Bakken oils fields in North Dakota, report that sex traffickers exploit women in the area, including Native American women.

The report gives each country a grade: Tier 1 being the best, Tier 3 the worst. There are criteria for each tier, including laws against trafficking, how countries deal with corruption of officials regarding trafficking, and care of survivors.

While global law enforcement has certainly become better at  identifying and prosecuting traffickers, the numbers are still abysmally low. For example, in 2014, more than 10,000 prosecutions were made globally, but there were less than 5,000 convictions.

The TIP report is a valuable tool for governments, NGOs and other organizations that work to educate people about human trafficking. As we become more and more aware of the pervasiveness of modern slavery, it falls on our shoulders to put a stop to it. No person is an object to be bought and sold; no human being was created to live a life of slavery.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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