The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as amended (TVPA) requires that the Secretary of State submit a list of countries that are determined to require special scrutiny, the Special Watch List, to Congress and provide an Interim Assessment of the progress made in combating trafficking in persons by the countries on that list (22 U.S.C. §7107(b)(2)(B)). The assessment briefly reports on government anti-trafficking activities in the six months since the release of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. (The annual TIP Report provides an in‑depth description of the trafficking problem in each particular country or territory and an analysis of government efforts to address trafficking.)
As required by the TVPA, the Special Watch List is composed of countries that either (1) moved up a tier from the 2015 TIP Report; or (2) were ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List because they were making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards and also (a) had a very significant or significantly increasing number of trafficking victims; (b) had failed to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking from the previous year; or (c) were determined to be making significant efforts based on commitments to carry out future actions over the coming year. Based on the 2016 TIP Report, 51 countries make up this Special Watch List.
The Department placed each of the governments included in the 2016 TIP Report on a particular tier, as mandated by the TVPA. This placement reflects an evaluation of a government’s actions to combat trafficking. Governments that fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking are placed on Tier 1. For other countries, the Department considers whether their governments made significant efforts to meet those standards. Countries whose governments are making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards are placed on Tier 2. Tier 2 countries are placed on the Tier 2 Watch List if the relevant Special Watch List criteria are considered and deemed to apply. Those countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so are placed on Tier 3.
Tier 1: Countries and territories whose governments fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards.
Tier 2: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Tier 2 Watch List: Countries and territories whose governments do not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and:
a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is increasing significantly; or
b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or
c) The determination that a country or territory is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country or territory to take additional future steps over the next year.
Tier 3: Countries and territories whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
In making tier determinations between Tiers 2 and 3, the Department considers the overall extent of human trafficking in the country; the extent of government noncompliance with the minimum standards, particularly the extent to which government officials have participated in, facilitated, condoned, or are otherwise complicit in trafficking; and what reasonable measures the government would have to take to come into compliance with the minimum standards within the government’s resources and capabilities.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Benin, in partnership with an international organization, conducted a comprehensive assessment on child sex trafficking. However, the government did not finalize legislation to criminalize all forms of trafficking, nor did it report prosecuting traffickers, identifying victims, or providing protective services.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Cabo Verde sentenced a convicted trafficker to four years imprisonment for slavery; began an investigation into the alleged sex trafficking of children; and partnered with an international organization to begin developing a plan to strengthen the country’s capacity to counter trafficking. The government did not report identifying or providing services to any trafficking victims.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Cameroon investigated allegations of fraudulent labor recruitment, investigated a government official for complicity in trafficking‑related offenses, and sent a delegation to Lebanon and Qatar to improve procedures to assist Cameroonian victims in these countries. The government did not assist in the repatriation from Kuwait of its citizens who were victims of trafficking, causing them to remain for extended periods in Kuwaiti shelters; continued to issue suspended sentences to convicted traffickers; and the national inter-ministerial committee and two of the three regional anti-trafficking taskforces did not meet or support anti-trafficking initiatives.
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has taken steps to develop procedures for collecting and reporting data on cases of sex trafficking as distinct from other sexual violence crimes, and continued measures to end the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other armed groups. The government did not provide comprehensive protection services to victims, develop procedures for officials to proactively identify and refer trafficking victims, or improve training for law enforcement.
Congo, Republic of the
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, a Government of the Republic of the Congo task force continued to raise awareness of human trafficking indicators among the community in Pointe-Noire and collaborated with an NGO to identify and rescue ten trafficking victims. The government did not enact draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; did not convict any traffickers; and continued to lack formal procedures to identify victims among child laborers, illegal immigrants, and women and girls in prostitution.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire’s Council of Ministers (1) approved and the National Assembly adopted a new anti-trafficking law that expands coverage of trafficking crimes to include both adults as well as children; (2) signed a memorandum of understanding with Ghana to combat child trafficking and child labor; (3) enabled trafficking victims to receive benefits from the National Solidarity Fund; (4) and charged and imprisoned five traffickers for 20 years. The government did not delineate responsibilities of government agencies for the 2016-2020 anti-trafficking action plan, nor did it amend the established procedures for identifying and referring potential trafficking victims, inhibiting its ability to provide adequate and timely victim care.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Gabon drafted a 2016-2017 national action plan that includes future efforts to address adult trafficking. However, the government did not adopt legal provisions criminalizing adult trafficking, suspended the prosecution of three alleged traffickers, and did not convict any traffickers.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Ghana (1) appointed a national anti‑trafficking coordinator; (2) established a high-level inter-ministerial committee to address the recommendations in the 2016 TIP Report; (3) directed the attorney general prosecutors’ review of open human trafficking investigations in Accra to ensure trafficking cases are appropriately prosecuted; (4) and signed a memorandum of understanding with Cote d’Ivoire to combat child trafficking and child labor. However, the government did not increase funding for investigation, prosecution, or victim protection efforts; report any trafficking convictions; implement systematic victim identification procedures; or finalize and implement a national plan of action against trafficking.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Guinea indicted one of five alleged traffickers for transporting children to Senegal for exploitation in forced begging, and passed a new criminal code increasing maximum penalties for trafficking and criminalizing debt bondage forced begging, and illegally transporting people across borders. However judges still have the option of imposing a fine in lieu of a prison sentence on convicted traffickers, and the government did not provide any support to NGOs, the sole providers of victim care in the country.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Mali investigated several suspected trafficking cases, charged several individuals with trafficking offenses, trained judicial personnel on implementation of the 2012 anti-trafficking law, and trained law enforcement on case investigation techniques and developing standardized identification and referral procedures. However, the government did not report convicting any traffickers.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Niger held a meeting of the National Coordination Commission to Fight Trafficking in Persons, at which the Commission and the National Agency to Fight Trafficking in Persons formally adopted identification procedures and a referral mechanism. While there was an increase in the number of trafficking victims rescued in comparison to previous years, the number of victims rescued was disproportionately low, while prosecution and data collection efforts remained inadequate.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Mozambique began implementation of the Southern African Development Community trafficking database, which captures trafficking case data. The government did not finalize or implement its national action plan, nor did it report an increase in prosecutions and convictions of suspected trafficking offenders.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Rwanda implemented new regulations to more directly address and punish human trafficking in refugee camps, including by military personnel; arrested several suspected traffickers; and rescued dozens of trafficking victims. The government did not prosecute officials involved in the recruitment and use of refugees in armed groups and sex trafficking in 2015, nor did it systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Senegal launched an initiative to combat forced child begging leading to the removal of more than 1,200 children from the streets of Dakar. However, the government did not proactively investigate or prosecute any individuals or organizations involved in these forced begging cases, expand this initiative beyond Dakar, or allocate any additional funding or resources to support the initiative, including for protection of the children removed from the streets.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Seychelles reported two trafficking investigations and increased prevention efforts by launching a televised human trafficking awareness campaign throughout the country and by organizing a series of trainings and study tours for government officials to address labor disputes involving potential human trafficking offenses. However, the government did not prosecute any trafficking offenses or criminalize the confiscation and retention of passports of migrant workers by employers.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland brought two trafficking cases before the High Court and one case before a Magistrate Court. However, the government did not provide training for judicial officials, improve coordination between police officers, prosecutors, and the Secretariat, or establish a new taskforce when the previous one expired in August.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Tanzania arrested five suspected traffickers, tried and convicted three, sentencing them to five years in prison each, and the Anti-Trafficking Committee proposed a change to the 2008 anti-trafficking law to mandate prison sentences for traffickers. Initiatives to allocate resources to the Victim Assistance Fund, enact expanded anti-trafficking training for government officials, and institute a nationwide system to collect data remain stagnant due to lack of funds.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of China’s law enforcement officials increased cooperation with counterparts from the United States and other countries to investigate sex trafficking of Chinese women outside China, and, in conjunction with international organizations, have conducted seminars to train local police and Exit and Entry officers to screen for potential trafficking victims. China does not legally recognize that men can be trafficking victims except in the most egregious of cases; labor trafficking is rarely prosecuted criminally; and the government has not criminalized the facilitation of prostitution of children younger than 18.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Hong Kong established an interagency TIP Working Group and implemented new interagency victim screening guidelines being piloted in the police force and with immigration officials. The government did not initiate any labor trafficking prosecutions or enact a comprehensive trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Kiribati continued reviewing contracts and employment practices of foreign recruiting agencies in the fisheries sector while educating potential employees about their rights to reduce the risk of labor exploitation abroad. The government did not initiate any trafficking prosecutions and remained without formal procedures to proactively identify victims of all forms of trafficking among vulnerable populations.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Laos made preliminary efforts to enable victims to participate in formal legal proceedings; increased expenditures from the government’s budget on service provisions and assistance programs for victims; and is working with civil society organizations to deliver assistance to victims, using them to fill the gap in the government’s capacity. The government did not increase efforts to identify victims of internal trafficking, according to civil society contacts, nor did it formally implement the 2016-2020 National Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Malaysia increased the pace of trafficking prosecutions and convictions; implemented regulations allowing victims the freedom of movement from government shelters; adopted a National Action Plan on trafficking in persons; and began development of an anti-trafficking law enforcement task force. Freedom of movement and access to employment remained limited to a small number of victims, and many labor abuses continued to be treated as civil disputes rather than crimes.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of the Philippines inaugurated the Internet Crimes Against Children unit within the Philippines National Police to combat online child sexual exploitation; trained 1,020 law enforcement officials, local government officials, and representatives from NGOs at 14 Anti-Illegal Recruitment and Anti-Trafficking in Persons Campaign Seminars; developed the Labor Exploitation Dimensions of Trafficking in Persons Manual for investigators, prosecutors, labor inspectors, and service providers; and launched a series of infomercial videos featuring testimonials of trafficking victims at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Proposed shelters for male victims continue to stall and no administrative or criminal charges have resulted from 31 trafficking-related investigations of immigration officers.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Solomon Islands amended the Penal Code to increase punishment for sexual offenses, including internal trafficking, repatriated eight foreign trafficking victims exploited in a logging camp, and worked with NGOs to provide additional trafficking shelters for women. The government did not convict any traffickers and has not provided resources to replace training and other capacity development activities previously provided by an international organization.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Thailand established a working group to monitor cases involving complicit officials, provided expanded training to law enforcement to identify trafficking victims, increased budget allocation to specialized anti-trafficking law enforcement units, and approved the Human Trafficking Criminal Procedures Act. However, significant gaps remain in the identification of victims, including insufficient numbers of qualified and available interpreters for vulnerable migrant workers, and inadequate time periods to interview and identify victims.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Tonga placed a Mandarin language-trained Asian Community Liaison Officer in the Tongan Police Force to build relations with the Chinese community that is particularly vulnerable to trafficking, and increased anti-trafficking training for law enforcement and labor inspectors. The government did not enact any laws or policies to provide explicit protections to domestic trafficking victims or develop a national action plan.
EUROPE AND EURASIA
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Bulgaria approved the National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Victims of Human Trafficking as a binding document, investigated sex trafficking rings, and increased resources for shelter capacity to assist women who are victims of trafficking. The government has not yet made tangible progress on its plans to provide specialized services for child trafficking victims.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Cyprus streamlined service provision to trafficking victims, particularly for financial assistance; intensified inspections of agricultural establishments suspected of employing undocumented and seasonal workers vulnerable to trafficking; and revised contracts for domestic workers to include information on trafficking prevention and how to access services. Government-operated social welfare services remained understaffed, with only one social worker dedicated to trafficking victims, and labor trafficking victims continued to face challenges in receiving support during the formal identification process.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Georgia officially announced their new Victim-Witness Assistance Unit at the Prosecutor’s office and launched an NGO grants program to fund NGOs that identify trafficking victims. However, the number of trafficking investigations and prosecutions were low, and the government continued to struggle to identify trafficking victims within vulnerable populations, such as street children.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Lithuania established a formal inter-ministerial committee with representation of NGOs, approved the “Action Plan to Combat TIP for 2017-2019,” and passed amendments to the Criminal Code criminalizing forced sham marriages as a form of human trafficking. The government did not increase resources available for protection to trafficking victims, and has not included training on the identification, referral, and appropriate treatment of TIP victims into the basic training module for all police students.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Serbia organized a two-day training on “Prevention of Trafficking in Children and Youth within the Educational System” for 80 trainers who will work with victim identification programs, and filmed a documentary on trafficking, which aired on public broadcasting on October 18. NGOs indicated that the government’s response to the challenge of trafficking in persons continues to be slow and inefficient; activists highlighted in particular the low number of identified victims, as well as the government’s failure to implement the national referral mechanism and establish state shelters.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Slovenia reported identifying 31 trafficking victims and adopted a manual to assist the identification of trafficking victims. The system for managing and supporting child trafficking victims remained weak and the government did not provide adequate facilities for housing and care.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Ukraine certified more trafficking victims and enhanced protection services; partnered with nongovernmental and international organizations to increase training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges; took steps to increase expertise and reduce turnover in the National Police anti-trafficking unit; and significantly increased public awareness raising activities. The government did not complete the victim identification checklist or modified procedure for granting victim status and did not pass legislation to ensure foreign victims are entitled to remain in the country.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Kuwait continued to improve the quality of protective services for trafficking victims at its migrant workers’ shelter and enacted law No. 68 that includes protections for domestic workers. The government did not prosecute potential labor trafficking cases referred to the public prosecutors, enforce laws against sponsors and employers who illegally held migrant workers’ passports, or provide shelter for male trafficking victims.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Oman contracted with a trafficking expert to advise on how to improve Oman’s prevention, prosecution, and protection mechanisms. The government did not report efforts to increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers, especially for forced labor offenses and those allegedly including government officials; expand labor protections or enforce legal protections for domestic workers; institute formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; or refer any suspected trafficking victims to the government shelter.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Qatar made several changes to its employment and recruitment systems that may reduce migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking, including replacing the “kafala” sponsorship system with a new contracting system to improve transparency in recruiting and ease exit restrictions for foreign workers; established an interagency national anti-trafficking committee and five new labor courts; and increased the number of labor abuse cases referred to prosecution and the number of foreign victims allowed to change employers. The government did not implement effective screening measures for identifying trafficking victims, continued to lack a designated shelter for such victims, maintained a disproportionately low number of trafficking prosecutions and convictions, and did not compile and report statistics on anti-trafficking efforts.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Saudi Arabia implemented its Wage Protection System for foreign workers and sustained efforts to increase public awareness through information campaigns. The government did not report efforts to reform the sponsorship system or to investigate employers responsible for labor violations as potential trafficking crimes.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Tunisia continued prosecution of a potential trafficking case under a pre-existing criminal law and passed an anti-trafficking law which, for the first time, defines trafficking crimes and strengthens punishments for offenders. The government has not yet begun to implement the law, develop standard procedures for the identification of victims, or institutionalize the use of the national referral mechanism across the country.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Afghanistan opened 12 new child protection units, which, in addition to the original five, prevented 318 underage recruits from joining the Afghan security forces from January through November 2016. Protection and reintegration of demobilized child soldiers is still lacking, and the government at times penalized victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Maldives acceded to the UN TIP Protocol and ratified an amendment to the Employment Act, requiring employers to pay foreign workers electronically. However, the government has not formally adopted standard operating procedures on victim identification and referral, and continued to lack a designated shelter for trafficking victims.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Pakistan began to review draft legislation that would distinguish between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and the provincial government of Sindh passed its Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. However, victim identification continued to be reactive, and identification of bonded laborers remained inadequate, in part because the many mandated bonded labor vigilance committees were not functioning.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Sri Lanka created a special human trafficking investigative unit in the Bureau of Foreign Employment and Criminal Investigation Department. However, a deficit of inter-ministerial coordination stymied overall government efforts to identify and refer victims to protection services, while implementation of standard operating procedures on victim identification and referral remained reactive and focused on female trafficking victims.
Antigua and Barbuda
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda completed drafting standard operating procedures for law enforcement, healthcare, and gender offices to refer victims for care. The government did not finalize a comprehensive national plan of action, improve anti-trafficking efforts, or improve data collection on trafficking cases.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Bolivia allocated resources to establish a national registry of employment agencies to inhibit fraudulent recruitment of labor, standardized training for all labor inspectors on trafficking indicators; sponsored several public awareness campaigns and workshops to combat trafficking and arrested the head of a major human trafficking network in the country. The government did not improve its data collection to adequately distinguish human trafficking from other crimes and did not implement standard procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Colombia nullified a provision in law 1069 that required victims file an official complaint against their traffickers to receive assistance. The government did not provide funding for the national anti-trafficking strategy approved in June or for the specialized trafficking in persons criminal investigation unit, nor did it increase inspections of employers in sectors where trafficking indicators have been found.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Costa Rica started the process to amend the trafficking in persons law to be more consistent with international law, including by no longer requiring movement for trafficking crimes; identified 20 trafficking victims, an increase from the previous year; increased specialized training among law enforcement, especially outside of San Jose; and provided increased specialized services to trafficking victims through collaborations with nongovernmental organizations. The government did not make progress in collecting centralized data and initiating prosecutions.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Cuba investigated websites outside Cuba that promote sex trafficking of Cuban women, trained government officials in victim identification and prevention of trafficking, and scheduled a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons to Cuba. The government did not amend its laws to criminalize all forms of trafficking, leaving a particular gap for forced labor; did not implement policies to screen for indicators of forced labor within the government-run labor sector; and did not protect victims of forced labor or prosecute forced labor cases.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of St. Lucia finalized and adopted a national action plan to combat trafficking. The government did not finalize or adopt standard operating procedures to guide police, immigration, labor, child protection, and social welfare officials on working with trafficking victims.
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of St. Maarten arrested a brothel owner for trafficking foreign national women and issued a decree allowing foreign nationals in prostitution to keep possession of their passports and voluntarily to terminate employment. The government did not update the anti-trafficking penal code to provide for sufficiently stringent penalties or to implement formal victim identification and referral procedures.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines provided anti-trafficking training to immigration officials and diplomatic personnel, and commissioned a Baseline Assessment Report prepared by an international organization to help plan the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. Government agencies responsible for combating trafficking continued to lack technical and financial resources to carry out their mandates.
Trinidad and Tobago
Since the release of the 2016 TIP Report, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago raised awareness about human trafficking through widespread outreach to local schools. The government did not approve a national action plan or provide specialized services to adult male victims of trafficking.