Governments Must Do More to Eradicate Slavery, says Kerry

Kerry’s comments came as he unveiled the State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report this morning, which provides a country-by-country assessment of governmental efforts to combat modern-day slavery.

“Some aren’t trying enough,” Kerry said, “others are trying hard, but we all need to try harder and do more.”

The TIP Report ranks governments worldwide into three tiers based on their efforts to combat and prevent human trafficking. This year’s report downgraded some countries into the lowest tier, which creates the possibility of U.S. sanctions.  

“Advocates feared poor performing countries, Thailand and Malaysia, would receive a “pass” due to sensitive geopolitical relationships; however, they received a downgrade to Tier 3 (the lowest tier),” according to an assessment released this morning by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of human rights organizations including Free the Slaves.

“The TIP Report is a critical tool in combating modern slavery,” said ATEST Director Melysa Sperber. “The report’s honest assessment should compel the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and other countries with serious human trafficking problems to step up their efforts to fight this horrific human rights crime.”

TIP2014cover_200_1The U.S. received a top Tier 1 ranking, though “ATEST believes there are still serious gaps in the U.S. response to human trafficking,” according to the group’s statement.

Kerry focused on the need for American leadership in the global battle against slavery, both to advance human rights and to protect global commerce from unfair competition by companies who utilize slave labor to cut costs.

“We need to integrate anti-trafficking efforts into all areas of our diplomatic and development work,” Kerry said. “This is a call to action. It’s a call to conscience. It is a reminder of what happens in many dark places that need light. And we have a responsibility to try to bring that light.”

The countries where Free the Slaves conducts front line field operations received mixed rankings in this year’s TIP Report Tier Ranking Assessments.  India, Nepal, Brazil and Ghana received Tier 2 assessments. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is on the Tier 3 list. Haiti is on a Tier 2 Watch List, which means it has been put on notice that it must improve its anti-slavery efforts or it will be downgraded.

“The heinous persistence of slavery demands accountability against a rigorous set of standards. Secretary Kerry and the State Department are to be commended for holding to account those governments that neglect their responsibilities and for publicly lauding the heroes who are battling this scourge,” said FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “We urge President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the Congress to now mobilize the level of U.S. resources and political leadership equal to the challenges outlined in the TIP Report.”

“ATEST is calling on the U.S. Government to increase funding and improve policies to:

  • “Stop treating victims as criminals. Children are arrested for prostitution and put in jail or juvenile detention facilities instead of receiving the services they need and deserve as victims of a horrendous crime;
  • “Provide services to all victims of modern slavery. Too many trafficking survivors aren’t getting timely access to the most basic emergency services such as shelter beds and medical care; even more are losing support services well before they are able to recover from such a traumatic crime;
  • “Improve the child welfare system.  Research conducted by states shows that children in the Child Welfare System are at significant risk of being trafficked;
  • “Protect our visa system from fraudulent foreign labor recruiters. An absence of oversight has resulted in the failure to prevent foreign labor brokers from luring men, women and children into forced labor situations in domestic service, restaurant, agriculture, sex trade, and other industries in the U.S.;
  •  “Ensure slave-free commerce. Current policies do not guarantee that the U.S. government and companies doing business in the here have slave-free supply chains or even require transparency about their efforts to prevent human trafficking.”

The ATEST coalition is also calling on Congress to make the fight against human trafficking a higher priority by elevating the State Department Trafficking in Persons Office (J/TIP) to the status of Bureau “so that its leaders can leverage their expertise on modern slavery with greater authority and impact,” the group says.”

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