Human Rights

Review: Trafficking in Persons Report 2015

“Money may be available to buy a lot of things, but it should never, ever be able to buy another human being.” – United States Secretary of State, John F. Kerry

 Commenced in 2001, the Trafficking in Persons Report highlights a business that degrades the entirety of mankind. It emphasizes the shortcomings in seeking employment and the risks some people face in the job market. By drawing attention to the issue of human trafficking and bringing to light the reasons behind it, the report can help mitigate the problem. By 2014, it had ranked 188 countries and territories.

Human Trafficking and its causes

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Trafficking in Persons Protocol) defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” The Protocol further explains exploitation as “…the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor, or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Terms such as “Trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” are synonymously used to explain the forced use of an individual for purposes of work they are not agreeable or comfortable with. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Protocol) describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, such as involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) thousands of men, women and children fall prey to traffickers in their own countries and abroad. It further states that no country is free from the affects of traffickers whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for the victims. UNODC functions as the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and assists States in implementing the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. And reports such as the Trafficking in Persons Report assist the UNODC with its functions and activities in safeguarding the lives of people from dubious people who deceive them into wrongful acts and employment.

Root causes of human trafficking are diverse in nature and differ from country to country and can be influenced by social, economic, and cultural factors. However sometimes the desire of potential victims to migrate is exploited by offenders to recruit and gain initial control or cooperation and exploit them once they move to their intended destination whether within the country or abroad. Some common factors driven by local conditions are poverty, oppression, lack of human rights, lack of social or economic opportunity, dangers from conflict of instability and similar conditions. Further, political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflict and natural disasters too can trigger trafficking of humans. Destabilization and the displacement of populations increase their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse through trafficking and forced labor, whilst war and civil unrest leads to massive displacement of populations, leaving orphans and street children extremely vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.

Analysis of the Trafficking in Persons Report 2015

“Every girl is sacred. Every girl deserves dignity. Every girl needs to dream. And no girl should ever be sold.” – Words from a Cambodian shelter for women and girls

While giving an outline of what human trafficking is, the report also provides details on global supply chains and the role that needs to be taken by the government and the private sector when on the lookout for labor. The report also analyses the current conventions and protocols on sex trafficking, child labor and labor. There is also a guideline to the breakdown of how the countries are categorized into the four tiers according to the gravity of the situation within the country and provides recommendations to the countries that need assistance in alleviating this issue from their shores. The Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 is also comprehensive in that it gives a detailed analysis of all the countries as well as giving insight in to other areas where incidents of exploitation and trafficking takes place. In this context, the report has two detailed chapters, one on stopping human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers & civilian personnel and the other on international, regional, and sub-regional organizations combating trafficking in persons.

The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report calls attention to human trafficking in the global marketplace. According to Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, the report “highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment and the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking, including a demand for transparency in global supply chains.” He further states there “…is no time for complacency. Right now, across the globe, victims of human trafficking are daring to imagine the possibility of escape, the chance for a life without fear, and the opportunity to earn a living wage.” This stresses on the aspirations of the report and the requirement to bring this illegal endeavor to an end.

The Report indicates that trafficking of humans, which is modern day slavery, needs global attention and the assistance of all nations to curb it. And in order to do so, it needs the help of society at large and the enforcement of law by the legal community. The report further urges the private sector to ensure and respect the rights and dignity of all human beings. Kerry states, “Human trafficking is not a problem to be managed; it is a crime to be stopped.” This sheds light to the gravity of the problem and the need to exercise immediate measures to mitigate the issue, before it becomes more complex and uncontrollable than its current status.

The 384 page document by the Department of State, provides a brief description on the different types of trafficking and the situations they can occur such as sex trafficking, child labor, force labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. It also clearly highlights that a victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for any or all of these crimes to fall within these definitions. The report brings attention to the Palermo Protocol which celebrates 15 years since its adoption.

The report not only talks of the different types of offences, but it also highlights the need to be vigilant in cracking down the international supply chains of the products used to provide a service and also examine the risks to those workers who provide them. It further highlights that human trafficking is found in many trades and that 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 undervalued by society and are often filled by socially marginalized groups including migrants, people with disabilities, or minorities. But it needs to be remembered that trafficking of persons is not limited to these low paying work, and is sometimes found in other areas of employment as well. However, exploiting a person at the lower level is comparatively easier when compared to that of a more valued occupation.

There are multiple conventions such as the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress & Punish Trafficking in Persons, the ILO Convention 182, Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labor, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Armed Conflict, ILO Convention 29, Forced Labor, ILO Convention 105, Abolition of Forced Labor and the ILO Convention 189, Domestic Workers, 2011 that seek to mitigate trafficking of persons. And the report stresses that the governments need to ratify these conventions in order to reap the maximum security they afford individuals from being exploited.

Prepared using information from U.S. embassies, government officials, non-governmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, research trips to every region of the world, and information submitted to the State Department the report categorizes each state into one of four tiers. This placement is based more on the extent of government action to combat trafficking than on the size of the country’s problem. The analyses are based on the extent of governments’ efforts to reach compliance with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking which are generally consistent with the Palermo Protocol.

Tier 1 ranking which is the highest of the rankings does not mean that the country does not have a human trafficking problem. It rather indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem, and meets the TVPA’s minimum standards. Each year, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking to maintain a Tier 1 ranking.

Under Tier 2 ranking comes the governments of countries that do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Under Tier 2 Watch List ranking are the governments of countries that do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and for which: a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution etc. or c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.

Tier 3 ranking is the lowest of the rankings where the governments of countries do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

“As we grow, we have to do it responsibly, and stay true to our values and uphold basic standards and rule of law. We have to keep striving to protect the rights of our workers; to make sure that our supply chains are sourced responsibly. – President Barack Obama

Human Trafficking and Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is ranked under Tier 2 Watch List as it has been identified “primarily [as] a source and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report indicates that Sri Lankans who seek employment in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan to work in the construction, garment, and domestic service sectors are subsequently subjected to forced labor. It further reveals that Sri Lankan women are subjected to forced prostitution in countries such as Jordan, Maldives, Malaysia, and Singapore among others. The report does not paint a rosy picture on Sri Lanka highlighting sex trafficking in the coastal region, especially of boys and also for permitting forced prostitution of women from Asia, Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, indicating that law enforcement officials too are aware of these dubious affairs.

Despite a requirement to downgrade Sri Lanka to Tier 3, the report places the country on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. The leeway was permitted because the government has a written plan, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. However, for the fourth consecutive year, Sri Lankan authorities have failed to convict any traffickers under Sri Lanka’s trafficking statute. This, the report states is indicative of a continued lack of understanding of trafficking and the inability to adequately investigate these crimes. The report also emphasizes that provisions for victim protection were inadequate, as the government provided no specialized services to male victims, incarcerated sex trafficking victims, and mixed child victims with criminals in state institutions.

The report further indicated that Sri Lankan law enforcement agencies have not thoroughly investigated potential human trafficking cases for elements of force, fraud, or coercion. It states that the lack of action from the part of the government remained a problem in cracking down on trafficking rings. The Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 stated, “There were allegations police and other officials accepted bribes to permit brothels to operate; some of the brothels exploited trafficking victims.”

Recommendations for Sri Lanka

The report states Sri Lanka needs to improve and increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses. It recommends Sri Lanka to ensure identified victims, including men and children, receive specialized care services. It further recommends the training of officials on identification and referral procedures. Ensuring victims within Sri Lanka are not detained or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of having been subjected to human trafficking, such as migration violations or prostitution is another area Sri Lanka has to work on correcting,

The June 2015 UNHCR report states by the end of 2014, 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide “as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations”. This number, which includes refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons, represents the highest annual increase on record, with a staggering 8.3 million people more than in 2013. People who move for economic and social stability are at great risk in doing so, especially when moving to a new land where there are unaware of both the language and law. It is here they are most vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers, unscrupulous recruiters, and corrupt border officials on whom they must rely on for their safety and security. Therefore it is the responsibility of the governments to ensure the people of their country are safe when going overseas for work as well as of those seeking employment within their national borders.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s