MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. As you know, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced this morning the release of the 10th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report. This 177-country report is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons.
In light of that, we’re very fortunate to have with us today Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons here to answer some of your questions and talk a little bit about the report in more detail. And just for your awareness, later on this week, Ambassador CdeBaca will participate on Tuesday in a congressional reception for the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Heroes that’s hosted by the Helsinki Commission.
On Wednesday, June 16th, Ambassador CdeBaca will participate in a briefing on the Trafficking in Persons Report at the Foreign Press Center in New York, and that’s at 10:00 a.m. And then at 1:00 p.m. that day, he’ll deliver keynote remarks regarding the 2010 report at a panel discussion hosted by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.
Without further ado, I’ll hand it over to Ambassador CdeBaca.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you for the introduction, Mark.
Earlier this morning, Secretary Clinton publicly released the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report. The annual report provides a diagnosis of the global effort to combat modern slavery. This year, the report assessed 177 countries, including two special cases. Those special cases are Haiti and Somalia. Two countries were ranked for the first time, Kiribati and the United States.
It’s important to highlight the significance of the U.S. ranking. As we work towards a lead-by-example diplomacy, it was common sense to include ourselves in this year’s report. Data was collected across the interagency: prosecutions from Department of Justice, information from DHS, and victim services efforts by Department of Health and Human Services. We also collected information from state and local law enforcement, nongovernmental organizations, and governments.
The Trafficking in Persons Report has spurred action throughout the years by other countries to take a hard look at their internal efforts against trafficking. Finland is a good example. Just a couple weeks ago, they recently completed a self assessment similar to the United States of their trafficking in persons response, and we certainly look forward to other countries undertaking that type of self diagnostic.
Without a doubt, the United States continues to be the world leader on this issue. In the 10 years since President Clinton signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the United Nations outlined the international community’s anti-trafficking standards in the Palermo Protocol, we’ve seen much progress. And as diagnosed by this year’s report, we still face a number of challenges.
The report discusses a host of those challenges, including the need for improved victims services. Whether in the United States or another country, we must treat victims as victims and not as criminals. We must look toward promising practices such as shelters that do not imprison victims, but instead allow for rehabilitation and recovery from the crimes committed against them.
The feminization of trafficking is a trend that we see in this year’s report, and that’s something that’s expanding beyond the conventional stereotypes of sex trafficking. Today, more than 56 percent of trafficking in women -- are women and girls, and we see more and more women suffering from labor trafficking, specifically involuntary domestic servitude. These maids suffer in silence behind closed doors, and in some ways are the most vulnerable because they do not know anyone other than their captors.
Often, as I’ve personally seen while I prosecuted these cases at an earlier career at the Department of Justice, and as still holds true today, these women, and in some cases men and boys, are also forced into sex slavery by those who would hold them in involuntary domestic servitude. And I’d point out that in recent months, I think in the UAE, there have been a couple of prosecutions in which women who were brought in to the Emirates in order to be domestic servants were then prostituted out by their employers. So the connection between domestic servitude and sex slavery is something that we’re starting to recognize more and more.
I would like to highlight some successes that are in the report, because even as we face challenges in our fight against modern slavery, there are more people around the world than ever before working on those human rights issues. I’ll run through a few quick successes and then we can move to questions.
One success that I think is very noteworthy is that of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which this year is upgraded to Tier 1 on the report. Bosnia was on Tier 3 for many years at the beginning of this decade. And I think that a lot of people – for a lot of people, the global fight against human trafficking first came to people’s attention because of the widespread sex slavery and the widespread abuses in the Balkans during the various wars of the 1990s.
This is something that we’ve seen on the part of the Bosnian Government: clear progress, especially over the last year; significantly reducing its use of suspended sentences; imposing stronger penalties for convicted traffickers; partnering with nongovernmental organizations on victim protection; and employing proactive procedures to go out and identify and help victims. It is a sea change if you look at the trafficking issue over the course of the last decade that Bosnia would be ranked in the first tier of countries that are fully compliant with the minimum standards.
This year we also saw noteworthy success by the Government of Egypt. The Egyptian Government’s progress in combating human trafficking over the last year is particularly evident in its enactment of a comprehensive law and its greater law enforcement and prevention efforts to confront fraudulent short-term marriages, often termed summer marriages, of Egyptian girls, which is a thinly veiled cover for the prostitution of children. Their activity against the summer marriages and, as the Secretary pointed out earlier this morning, the steps that they are taking towards starting shelters with some of the major hospitals in Cairo and Alexandria reflects the government’s partnerships with international legal experts, the key of one of which was – we were happy to be able to help fund from here at the State Department in collaboration with civil society. We’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing coming out of Egypt.
So, too, the Government of Pakistan, which was upgraded to Tier 2 this year, has dramatically increased the number of convictions and prosecutions for human trafficking, undertaking creative efforts to prevent bonded labor. Behind this enhanced commitment, particularly a greater focus on bonded labor, are stronger partnerships with United States Government and international organizations on the issue of trafficking in persons.
Some of you may recall, some of you may have covered, a situation last fall – August and September – in which over 170 Pakistani nationals, victims of bonded laborers, were taken hostage by feudal landlords in Sind Province in retaliation for actually seeking a habeas corpus writ to free them from debt bondage in court. What they got for their troubles was confined and jailed by the landlords and their henchmen, their guards. The Secretary raised this and, in fact, civil society actors asked her about it in her October visit to Islamabad. Simultaneously, as that was going on, local police were in the process of liberating those people. And we certainly appreciate the activities and the actions taken by the Pakistani Government to fight that situation.
Another success, Malaysia upgraded this year to Tier 2 watch list. You may recall that last year Malaysia was downgraded to Tier 3. Over the course of the last year, the Malaysian authorities have acknowledged and begun to tackle their serious human trafficking problem, including intensified engagement with foreign governments. For the first time, the government formed partnerships with nongovernmental organizations to work in partnership. And as a result of their work with the United Nations interagency anti-TIP program out of Bangkok, they identified and assisted victims of forced labor on fishing boats on the coast of Sarawak. Those initial cases of labor trafficking, as well as what they’re doing on sex trafficking, is certainly heartening as far as the commitment that is beginning to be shown by the Government of Malaysia.
One final success that I’d like to highlight, although there are many more in the book, and that is the action on the part of the Government of Syria, which was, this year, upgraded to the Tier 2 watch list from Tier 3, where it had been for years. In Syria, partnerships with international organizations and NGOs contributed to the progress. It included its enhancement of an anti-trafficking law, enactment of two decrees to better protect foreign domestic workers, and opening a second shelter for trafficking victims in Aleppo, which added to a preexisting government-supported shelter in Damascus. Again, we see much of the problem in Syria and much of the activity now to protect the workers coming with the issues of foreign domestic workers, the maids who have been brought into Syria. So we see that kind of increased political role on that government as well as many others. And again, we are encouraged.
We look at – as the Secretary said today, we look at this not as an exercise in finger-wagging or calling out, but rather, diagnosing ourselves and countries around the world so that we can work together in partnership. I appreciate your attention and we’ll take a few questions.
I know you had one to begin with.
QUESTION: A couple. One, just in very simple terms, can you explain why the U.S. Government feels that it is beneficial to rate itself? Does it add to your credibility when you talk to others?
Second, the Secretary alluded to some countries who had reached out to the U.S. Government, trying not to be left in low categories or dropped down to them. And can you give us some sense of who those are? Tier 3, for example, this year yet again includes both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, countries with enormous resources and yet they have been very durable presences in that bottom category. Were they the ones trying to get off it or were they just making no real efforts?
And then lastly, could you address the question of Switzerland, which is on Tier 2 – not the watchlist, but Tier 2? Again, a country with significant resources; why has it not been possible for the Swiss to do better?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, there’s several questions. I’ll try to take them in descending order. As far as the self assessment, one of the things that we’ve seen over the last few years is a number of countries, often in Europe, have put into the – in place the practice of what’s called the national rapporteurs. And they often, like an – kind of like an ombudsman, are assessing the anti-trafficking efforts within that country.
We have seen that as a helpful activity on the part of those governments, as – to the degree that they are honest, to the degree that they confront not just successes, but also challenges. And so we felt that the United States needed that as a diagnostic tool for ourselves, that the Obama Administration is committed to applying the same diagnostics that we would apply to other countries.
So when we looked at the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons that we are statutorily bound to apply to the other countries of the world, not only did we feel that it was only fair and just that we apply those same minimum standards, but also that it would be helpful to run the United States anti-trafficking activities through that analytical framework. And so, as I said, we encourage other countries not simply to look to our report for their own self assessment, but to perform their own as well.
Switzerland, I think, is in the process of doing that. We stand ready to continue to work with the Swiss. They’re – in our review this year and working with the Swiss Government, we did identify a gap in their law that created a loophole in which children at the ages of 16 and 17 could legally participate in prostitution. And since the law here in the United States as far as the minimum standards as well as the international norms of the Palermo Protocol and otherwise make 18 a very bright line. Even for countries that have legalized prostitution, the child prostitution situation was something that had to be dealt with.
And I’ve already spoken with the Swiss ambassador. We’ve – we’re talking to the Swiss as to how we can – as – in partnership, work through some of the legal challenges that they face. And we do see commitment from them to address these issues.
QUESTION: And it would require legislation (inaudible)? And could it be done by, you know, regulations or something?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I wouldn’t speculate on the various ways that the Swiss could actually handle this. One of the issues, of course, with Switzerland is when you’re dealing at the cantonal level with law enforcement issues, some countries can change their entire trafficking regime overnight simply by passing a federal law. Others have to do it --
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: -- state by state, locality by locality. And I think that that’s something that the Swiss are looking at as --
QUESTION: Was this a problem last year?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: It’s a situation that I think --
QUESTION: I mean, I just don’t understand how the – I mean, was – did something change over the last year to get them dropped from Tier 1?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: The law and the loophole was extant for quite a while. I think that our recognition of it --
QUESTION: Ah, okay.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: -- as we --
QUESTION: So basically, they should have been on Tier 2 last year or – and the year before?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I wouldn’t speculate backwards. I certainly would let – this year’s ranking speaks for itself.
QUESTION: And then how about Kuwait and Saudi Arabia?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: And then Kuwait and Saudi Arabia --
QUESTION: And then who else was trying to – who was trying to get themselves out of the --
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I mean, we have yet to see a country come to us and ask to be put on a lower tier ranking. So I think that as we work with the countries throughout the year, there’s always the desire to move up in the tier rankings. What we then look for is: What are the actions? What are the activities?
In both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, we have seen some beginning of action and we will continue to work with them, whether it’s the Kuwaitis starting to at least discuss the extension of certain labor protections to foreign workers in Kuwait, or whether it’s the Saudi Arabia example in which this spring they did pass a first draft of an anti-trafficking law. In both countries, we would like to see enhanced victim services. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia especially, the situation for escaped maids and escaped workers is – continues to be untenable, in no small part because of the situation where the employer has to kind of countersign the exit visas for the person who they sponsored. Even if that person was running away from the employer for abuse, that employer still has the power to block them from leaving and going home or getting another job.
So we are certainly going to work with the governments both of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as far as how they can address these situations, not because we’re trying to figure out how do we get them onto a different tier; it’s how do we get the situation for workers in those countries to be better. The tiers then follow.
QUESTION: You said earlier this morning, and it’s also in the report which I haven’t, of course, read all of, that the United States is a source country for human trafficking. What does that mean? Are you saying that there are U.S. citizens around the country that are trafficking women and children and taking advantage of people that are here for temporary working visas, or are you saying that there’s people that are coming in from outside the country that are operating these trafficking rings and those kinds of things? What does it – because it doesn't seem to specify that in here.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I hate to say this, but the answer is kind of yes. The – what we have in the United States is a situation where there are homegrown traffickers who are enslaving people in various segments of the economy, and some of those end up enslaving American citizens, some of those end up enslaving foreign nationals. Some of the foreign nationals who are here were recruited in their home countries and brought here by people who intended to do that all along. Others may have immigrated and then, once they’re here, get trapped.
I’d actually – and I know you have a very busy day, but if people have a chance, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Slavery Museum, which is out in the parking lot right now, breaks this down, I think, pretty well, in that it talks – it has some of the artifacts not just from cases with men and women from Mexico and Guatemala who are enslaved in Florida picking crops, but African American men from Florida who spoke English who don’t have those same issues of being a foreign person or afraid of the immigration or something like that, African American men being enslaved in agriculture in Florida within the last five, six years.
QUESTION: By U.S. citizens or by --
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: By U.S. citizens. So it’s a very multifaceted way that it ends up manifesting. And in sex trafficking, then there’s also the difference between those who are enslaving immigrant women in prostitution and those who are enslaving U.S. citizen women and girls. It’s often runaways. In those situations, those cases have historically been dealt with in the United States under the prostitution statutes rather than under the involuntary servitude and slavery statutes, though what’s happening in some of the situations is that the pimps are actually enslaving the women that are working for them.
QUESTION: One quick thing. Can you explain special cases – what that is, Haiti and – what was the other country?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Somalia. Haiti and Somalia are special cases in no small part because of the capacity of the government. When we have a functional government, even a very haltingly functional government, then that country not only gets assessed but actually ranked. In both Haiti and Somalia, it continues to be our position that those governments are not sufficiently operative to actually give them a ranking in the report.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Back on the case of Cuba, I’m wondering what actually is the justification for the – I mean, I read a little bit, but it sounds – it seems like the U.S. might be open to charges of political ranking. I’m just trying to get why Cuba is on Tier 3.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think that one of the things that we see for Cuba is that there is no law against this practice. There’s some other laws that could be cobbled together perhaps in order to prosecute a trafficker, but there’s no evidence that that has actually been done. I think one of the things that we also look at there is, again, the age of legal prostitution. Again, children are – can legally be in prostitution at ages 16 and 17.
We also see the lack of human trafficking protections and no training for the police, prosecutors, or social workers on what to do if one sees a human trafficking situation. So in a country where not only do you have a – such a large tourist industry, other countries in the region that draw tourists from the same places as Cuba, have large child sex tourism problems, and are working to address those, we don’t see the same activity in Cuba. So it’s a multifaceted approach as far as why they would end up on Tier 3.
QUESTION: Can you comment on North Korea? And also, what do you say to China, where a lot of North Korean human trafficking is actually happening?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, North Korea continues to be a Tier 3 country in this year’s report. We have not seen any indication that the North Korean Government is actually addressing the human trafficking problem.
One of the issues, of course, that we have when we look at the northeastern part of China is that there is the North Korean refugee community, that population. What we’d like to see from the Government of China is that there would be actual screening of people within that refugee flow to see which are the people who are actually trafficking victims. We’re not saying that every one of them necessarily is, but we’ve had enough reports, whether it’s of forced labor, whether it’s of forced marriages, of enough reports of abuse coming out of that region that we’d like to see more screening and then more victim protections on the part of the Chinese Government.
When it comes to North Korea, I think that one of the issues that we’re looking at is not simply the lack of a legal regime in order to address human trafficking or to be able to prosecute traffickers or rehabilitate the victims or do any of the things that even are the baseline to be working on it, but also when the North Korean Government exports labor to other countries, are those people in the places that they’re going – do they have a modicum of freedom there or is the government sending, whether it’s police or security services or others with them in order to keep them in line.
And so we’ve expressed concern, as have some of the governments of Western Europe. I think it was the Czech Republic actually terminated their contracts with the North Korean Labor Export Company because of their concerns of the type of abuse that was happening with the exported North Korean laborers.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the situation in Taiwan. It had been moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1 year. And is there any special reason for such a movement?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, one of the things that, hopefully, jumps out at you as you read the report this year – and if not, I’ll give it a little bit of a boost – is the need for more victim protections and the need for a victim response that’s not based on detaining the victims. If you take somebody out of a servitude situation where they’ve had their freedom denied, you take them out, ostensibly rescuing them, and then you put them into a detention center, then that is not necessarily going to win any cases, it’s not necessarily going to rehabilitate the victim, it’s not really honoring the ethos of the UN protocol on what you’re supposed to do as far as the 3-P approach of prevention, protection, and prosecution.
Taiwan – and one of the things that we’ve seen that occasioned the upgrade this year is that the victim services side has been addressed. So for the first time, their new comprehensive law, which is very well-conceived, has now come into force. And one of the things that it allows is it allows for victims to work, to be able stay in Taiwan, to get jobs with other employers, and to work while their cases are being investigated.
So many countries around the world when you go to a shelter – first of all, it might look more like a detention center, but the victims are just there being warehoused – these are people who are coming out of a tremendously abusive situation. The research shows that most of them haven’t even gotten to the point of having post-traumatic stress disorder; they’re still in trauma for the first 90 days or so when they’re coming out of this slavery situation. Taiwan has recognized that, has studied it, and has actually acted to make sure that these people are not just put in jail after they get liberated.
QUESTION: I haven’t read the report yet, but I was just wondering if you can address this issue of trafficking from China and the Indian subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh – which usually come to Europe and Africa and then they are brought to U.S. through – by land or sea, from Mexico. And this is – it’s very much related to the – the terrorists can use this network.
And another thing was the financial network which is called hawala, which is word-of-mouth, have you addressed that?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I think that the network that you’re describing that goes through Africa and into Latin America and up is typically a route that we see with the large-scale alien smuggling situations. We have heard situations of trafficking occurring within that migrant stream, most notably, as you said, with Chinese – often Chinese women who are waylaid for a couple of years in southern Africa being forced in prostitution in order to pay the smuggling fees or pay the debts that the alien smugglers claim that they’re owed.
But one of the things that we’ve seen is that this is a route that is used by both alien smugglers and human traffickers. It’s hard to differentiate amongst the two. And so a lot of our attention – because it’s such a large human smuggling route, much of our attention has been on the smuggling aspect. And our colleagues over at the Department of Homeland Security have beefed up their legal attaches at the embassies – we’ve got a good cadre of folks working out of Pretoria – and have been able to dismantle and impinge a number of the shipments and actually have been able to arrest and prosecute some of the large players in that.
I think that you do raise a good point, though, that we have to be mindful of the fact that these routes can be used for various things. You can have a person who’s flowing through it who is headed towards a life of indentured servitude. You can have another person who’s headed through that route who’s simply going to melt into society as an illegal alien. But then you could also have someone who’s coming in to do harm. And so we’re looking at that across the board to try to make sure that we can disrupt those established smuggling routes.
QUESTION: And about the financial network with is called hawala, which works just word of mouth? You know, $1 million to be transferred, no money moves across the continents. It is paid by this network.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I would defer to our colleagues at Treasury and others as far as the mechanics.
QUESTION: Because Europe is doing a lot to control this.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Europe is doing a lot to control this.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Yes, and I know that hawala is something that Treasury and other working groups have been dealing with. That’s not necessarily something that’s reflected in this year’s report.
QUESTION: Do you see improvement? Is the number of victims decreasing or increasing this year? Last year, the UN reported about 12 million people were victims. How do you see it? Is there improvement?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: We see improvement in that we see now 116 countries that have – 116 countries have enacted legislation. The number of convictions have increased – 40 percent, actually – since last year, up to over 4,000. The number of labor convictions have tripled, up to 335. But what we don’t necessarily see yet is the decrease in victims, partially because we’re still trying to get the baseline as to what is the baseline from which we would work.
I think that one of the things that we see is that as a country starts to comply with their obligations under the Palermo Protocol around prevention, protection, and prosecution, once they put together an intergovernmental – like an inter-ministerial working group or an interagency working group – once they put those structures in place, they start to see more victims. It’s because they’re finding them; it’s not because the victims weren’t there before.
So the Netherlands Antilles is a perfect example. Up until last year, they didn’t have those structures in place and so NGOs would report that there was trafficking in Curacao and those different islands, but there was no cases and no victims identified. In the last year, they’ve actually arrested and prosecuted nine traffickers because they had built the structures that had been able to see it.
So I actually think that success in the next few years is actually going to look a lot – it’s going to be an increase in numbers of cases, an increase in numbers of victims. That might be counterintuitive; you’d like to see it go down, but I think that success will actually be that we’re uncovering more cases. Then as we get the baseline, we’ll be able to start assessing the efficacy of the various things.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Take one more question and then – yeah.
MR. TONER: Yeah, one more question.
QUESTION: Yeah, wait – yeah. Do you get the sense from the report, from the overview, that – you know, the sense of progress and improvement that you’re talking about? One might have imagined that the economic global downturn might have led to – I mean, you can imagine how it could have led to some, in more cases, worse problems. I’m wondering, do you have any sense of the economic impact of the global recession?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: As far as we can tell, there’s a couple of competing issues within the economic downturn. On the one hand, people are more desperate and are therefore willing to take more risks, putting themselves into harm’s way with an abusive labor recruiter.
On the other hand, there are fewer big projects for them to be placed by those abusive labor recruiters. So if you see, for instance, building booms in Western Europe or in the Gulf, those building booms collapsed and there is no longer the demand for your Eastern European construction workers in Western Europe or your South Asian construction workers, say, for instance, in the Gulf states. So it seems to be cancelling itself out a little bit as far as the demand for the exploitable labor going down as part of the market.
What we are very concerned, though, about the economic downturn is the softening, or what appears to be a softening of the amount of money that some of the countries are spending on victim protection. And we think that even in the economic downturn, it’s something that your money is well spent upon. Victim protection in this situation is not simply a social program. It’s also being able to help the folks who you’ve gotten out of a slavery situation, work them through their trauma, and then have them as effective witnesses against the transnational criminals that you’re trying to put out of business.
So it’s not simply – we would suggest to the countries who are thinking about cutting the budgets as far as victim protection is concerned – it’s not simply a social program; it’s actually a law enforcement tool that they’d be putting on the shelf. And frankly, we’ve seen countries that are as poor as Moldova still spending money on victim shelters, still supporting these types of things. So if Moldova, which has one of the lowest GDPs out there – if Moldova can come up with $50-or-$60,000 to fund shelters, we would certainly expect other countries, even in a recession, would be able to as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you so much.
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