Smith Law Holds Countries Accountable on Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking Disappointed on China Rating
Contact: Jeff Sagnip, 202-225-3765; chrissmith.house.gov
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- The latest country-by-country ratings about anti-human trafficking policies around the world -- a report mandated by a law written by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) -- was released today by the U.S. State Department.
"Experts estimate that there is more slavery in the world today that at any previous time in human history. With the Trafficking in Persons (or TIP) report and tier rankings, the United States is ensuring more accountability and progress than ever before in the fight to rid the world of this enduring form of slavery," said Smith, co-chair of the House Human Trafficking Caucus. "The trafficking office evaluates just how hard governments around the world are combating human trafficking. Good or bad, the record is laid out for the world to see in a tier ranking system. This year's report shows progress, but marks the way forward to rid the world of this gross violation of human dignity."
TVPA created the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department. Its annual TIP Report rates 195 nations. Rep. Smith chaired a special hearing in April of this year to evaluate the records of countries downgraded to the lowest tier in last year's TIP report, such as China, Russia, and Uzbekistan, as well as countries facing downgrade this year -- Burma, Thailand, and Malaysia among others. "The importance of accurate Tier rankings and TIP Report country profiles cannot be overstated. Again and again, we have seen countries turn 180 degrees and begin the hard work of reaching the minimum standards after the TIP report accurately exposed -- with a Tier 3 ranking and truthful country report -- each country's failure to take significant action against human trafficking. By the same token, a premature boost to Tier 2 may not only undermine progress, but fail to inspire it among countries actually doing the hard work."
The TIP Report released today showed that Thailand and Malaysia had been downgraded to Tier 3, where they joined Uzbekistan and Russia. However, Burma was given a waiver despite the fact that their Rohingya policies are driving the trafficking in Thailand and Malaysia, and that the Burmese military reportedly traffics men, women, and children internally displaced by conflict. China was upgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List, the second lowest rating.
Smith, who has held more than 45 human rights hearings on China, was doubtful that China achieved even that low score.
"The Chinese government's own policies continue to result in increased human trafficking and additional/compounded harm to trafficking victims, and China should have remained on Tier 3," said Smith, co-chair of the bipartisan Commission on China, which is made up of appointees of White House and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. "The report clearly states:
"State sponsored force labor continues to be an area of significant concern in China. "Reform through labor" (RTL) was a systematic form of forced labor that has existed in China for decades. The PRC government reportedly profited from this forced labor, which required many detainees to work, often with no remuneration, for up to four years… .
"The Chinese government's birth limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons create a skewed sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls in China, which may serve to increase the demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men -- both of which may be procured by force or coercion. Women and girls from Burma, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, and North Korea are recruited through marriage brokers and transported to China, where some are subsequently subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor… .
"Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate some North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants -- despite reports that many North Korean female refugees in China are trafficking victims… ."
At the hearing in April, Smith called on the State Department to maintain last year's historic downgrade of China and asked the Administration not to waive the automatic downgrade of Burma.
Tier 1 countries fully meet minimum standards. Tier 2 countries do not meet the minimum standards but are making significant effort to do so. Tier 3 countries do not meet the standards and are not making significant effort to do so. Along with the embarrassment of being listed on Tier 3, such countries are open to sanction by the U.S. government.
The congressman said all Tier 3 countries are subject to potential sanctions that include: the United States using its voice and vote to deny such countries loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multi-lateral banks, and barring non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance, as well as certain education and cultural exchange programs.
Since the TIP Report's inception, more than 120 countries have enacted anti-trafficking laws and many countries have taken other steps required to significantly raise their tier rankings -- citing the TIP Report as a key factor in their increased anti-trafficking response.
The April hearing also examined problems in Europe and other developed countries, such as Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy and others.
The report confirms again this year that Brazil continues to have a major problem with child sex tourism, and recommends that Brazil "vigorously investigate and prosecute those who engage in the prostitution of children…." This recommendation is of particular importance given Brazil's history of allowing convicted traffickers to pay fines, perform community service, or live under house arrest rather than delivering a serious sentence. "The Government of Brazil must ensure, especially now, that traffickers and buyers alike are deterred by the consequences of child trafficking," said Smith.
In addition to the original 2000 law (P.L. 106-386) which provided for the annual reports, Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims.