The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as amended (TVPA) requires that the Secretary of State submit a list to Congress of countries that require special scrutiny and to provide an Interim Assessment of the progress made in combating trafficking in persons (TIP) by the countries on that list. The assessment briefly reports on government anti-trafficking activities in the first half of the reporting period. (The annual TIP Report provides an in-depth description of the trafficking problem in each country or territory and an analysis of government efforts to address trafficking.)
In the 2019 TIP Report, 38 countries were placed on the Special Watch List. As required by the TVPA, the Special Watch List consists of countries that either (1) had moved up a tier from the 2018 TIP Report or (2) were ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List.
The Secretary of State placed each of the countries or territories included in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report on a tier, as mandated by the TVPA. Tier placement reflects an evaluation of a government’s actions to combat trafficking. Governments that fully comply with 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 bring themselves into compliance. Countries whose governments are making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards are placed on Tier 2. The Special Watch List criteria are considered and, if applicable, Tier 2 countries are placed on the Tier 2 Watch List. Those countries whose governments do not fully comply with 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 estimated number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is increasing significantly and the country is not taking proportional concrete actions; or
b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous 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 otherwise were 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.
The Government of Angola organized interdisciplinary trainings for members of law enforcement, prosecution agencies, and social services and began entering TIP cases into the Southern African Development Community’s TIP database. The Council of Ministers did not approve the draft National Action Plan, however.
Central African Republic
The Government of the Central African Republic named a cabinet-level minister to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts; collaborated with an NGO on a public awareness campaign on child soldiering, child labor, and sexual exploitation; leveraged partnership with an international organization to provide anti-trafficking training for its Mixed Unit for Rapid Intervention and Repression of Sexual Violence to Women and Children, the police, and gendarmes; and created a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons, which is currently awaiting final passage in the National Assembly. The government did not prosecute a trafficking case during the reporting period, however, and has yet to enact its Child Protection Law intended to strengthen the legal framework for prosecuting child traffickers.
Congo, Republic of the
The Government of the Republic of Congo enacted anti-trafficking legislation in June 2019, arrested and detained suspected traffickers, and referred trafficking victims to a government-funded facility. The government did not finalize or implement, however, procedures to guide government officials in victim identification and referral to protective services, budget for trafficking-specific programs, increase the nation-wide effectiveness of the anti-trafficking interministerial committee, or establish an anti-trafficking law enforcement unit.
The Government of Gabon adopted a Penal Code that increases trafficking penalties and criminalizes all forms of trafficking, including of adult victims; prosecuted two trafficking cases, which led to the conviction of one trafficker; contributed in-kind resources for the training of 54 magistrates on the new trafficking provisions of the penal code in coordination with a donor; funded assistance for trafficking victims; and provided training for social workers on the provision of care for trafficking victims. The government did not reinvigorate a formal mechanism for coordinating among government ministries or release a national action plan for discussion, however.
The Government of Guinea-Bissau partnered with NGOs to assist in victim repatriation from Senegal; held regular meetings of the anti-trafficking committee; developed a national referral mechanism for victims, in coordination with an international organization; and, adopted a national anti-trafficking advocacy plan. The government did not investigate or prosecute, however, trafficking offenses or convict and punish any traffickers, develop victim identification procedures, train any officials on the 2011 anti-trafficking law, or approve a national action plan to guide the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.
The Government of Lesotho drafted an amendment to legal statutes used to prosecute trafficking crimes, removing sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment and the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense. The government did not, however, increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers; finalize and implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and standard operating procedures for referring identified victims to care; or, increase oversight of labor recruitment agencies licensed in Lesotho.
The Government of Liberia initiated investigations of at least eight cases, including cases of suspected internal trafficking, and prosecuted three cases leading to the conviction of one trafficker; incorporated anti-trafficking modules into an in-service training for armed units of the Liberia National Police, in partnership with an international organization; and, organized public awareness events. The government did not, however, amend the 2005 anti-trafficking law, provide operating and victim protection budgets to the anti-trafficking task force, endorse the national referral mechanism, expand victim services, or enforce victim restitution provisions under the 2005 act.
The Government of Malawi partnered with NGOs to provide training and hold awareness campaigns, improved government coordination at both the district and national level, and used resources from the victim assistance fund established under the 2015 anti-trafficking act to support the repatriation of trafficking victims. The government did not make progress, however, on the identification, construction, and official designation of a trafficking victim shelter, nor did it follow through on the resolution and payment of the default judgement issued by a U.S. court against a Malawian diplomat found guilty of trafficking in 2017.
The Government of Sierra Leone expedited prosecution of human trafficking cases by transferring cases directly to the High Court; expanded the anti-trafficking task force to include representation in all of the country’s 16 districts; drafted a new anti-trafficking law removing fines in lieu of imprisonment and stipulating a minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment; allocated two buildings to serve as a recovery center and interim care center for trafficking victims; and, in some cases in partnership with an international organization, trained at least 40 police, 30 social workers, and 40 labor union members on identifying human trafficking. The government did not convict, however, any traffickers, and maintained labor migration policies that possibly encouraged labor migration to occur through informal channels, potentially increasing migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking.
The Government of South Africa more than doubled the number of TIP-related prosecutions from the previous year and launched its National Policy Framework on trafficking in persons, which is intended to ensure the criminal justice system is effective in prosecuting criminals, protecting trafficking victims, and promoting a cooperative and aligned response among all government departments and civil society organizations engaged in assisting victims. The government did not pass, however, Department of Home Affairs implementing regulations for the anti-trafficking law.
The Government of Sudan’s General Intelligence Services (GIS) committed to assemble the relevant government entities to outline policies and procedures for countering trafficking. Since Sudan experienced a civilian-led uprising and overthrow of the previous regime in April 2019, however, the transitional government has not yet provided additional information related to its efforts to implement the 2019 TIP Report recommendations.
The Government of Tanzania reported increased investigations of potential trafficking cases; cooperated with regional governments in intercepting an alleged trafficking scheme; trained officials from the national and border police and the Criminal Investigation Service on assisting potential trafficking victims; and, raised public awareness on national television. The government has yet to adopt an amendment to the 2008 anti-trafficking act intended to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment, however, nor has it aligned the procedural law pertaining to trafficking-related arrests within the act to be commensurate with other serious crimes, nor allocated resources to implement properly the 2018 national anti-trafficking action plan.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
The Government of Brunei enacted a new law addressing human trafficking offenses, improved national coordination of anti-trafficking efforts by formalizing its anti-trafficking committee under the Prime Minister’s Office, and created a high-level government committee to address reports of irregularities in foreign worker recruitment and reform the recruitment process. The government did not proactively investigate or prosecute possible cases of labor trafficking and it did not maintain a shelter facility for male victims.
The Government of Cambodia improved its national anti-trafficking coordination efforts by incorporating recommendations from international experts in its draft five-year joint action plan and it raised public awareness of trafficking in persons. The government did not implement a system for monitoring, collecting, and reporting data on anti-trafficking prosecutions and victim protection efforts, nor did it increase the availability of services for male victims of trafficking.
The Government of Fiji conducted more public awareness campaigns and increased the number of officers assigned to the police human trafficking unit. It did not develop victim identification guidelines or proactively screen vulnerable groups, increase efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses, or amend the Crimes Act to criminalize all forms of trafficking, however.
The Government of Laos increased the capacity of provincial officials through training and promotion of district and provincial committees, and law enforcement launched the country’s first investigation of foreign victims. The government did not report it investigated internal trafficking or that it significantly expanded victim support provisions.
The Government of Malaysia increased direct engagement with private business and civil society organizations to combat human trafficking. The government has not finalized standard operating procedures for victim identification, however, and prosecutions and convictions of traffickers remain low.
The Government of the Marshall Islands reconvened its national task force on human trafficking, funded an NGO to conduct a public awareness campaign, and the police referred a sex trafficking case to the attorney general’s office for prosecution. The government did not report identifying new victims, however, and, although it has committed to do so, the government has not yet taken concrete steps to accede to the UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Vietnam demonstrated its commitment to anti-trafficking efforts through increased coordination on its nationwide inter-agency action plan to counter trafficking in persons, and it heightened its focus on training officials in victim assistance. The government did not increase efforts, however, to fully address the predatory recruitment practices for migrant workers that lead to debt bondage.
EUROPE AND EURASIA
The Government of Azerbaijan opened a new victim assistance center in Goychay to provide general support for victims of crime, including trafficking victims, and allocated grants totaling 25,000 manat ($14,700) for the first time to NGOs working on victim protection. The government did not address, however, lenient sentences for traffickers, nor did it increase efforts to identify victims of internal trafficking.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) consulted stakeholders to inform the draft national strategy and initiated procedures to restructure regional monitoring teams, and, the Presidency of BiH has adopted a decision making this a priority item for the newly formed government. The government has yet to finalize and adopt the national strategy, revitalize the strike force, or increase funding for victim protection, however.
The Government of Hungary appointed a national coordinator for law enforcement operations and an expert investigator in each of the 19 county police offices and one expert at the Budapest office. The government did not address ongoing shortcomings in identification and referral, particularly among children in state-run homes and orphanages.
The Government of Montenegro increased prosecutions, registered 11 new cases, and issued the only conviction under the trafficking in persons article in the past five years; conducted government-wide trainings; and, formally developed standard operating procedures. The government did not make significant new efforts to incentivize victim participation, to integrate Romani groups, nor did it create and finance an accessible compensation fund.
The Government of Romania successfully completed a three-year, EU-funded human trafficking awareness campaign, and drafted an improved version of the national victim identification and referral mechanism. The government did not significantly increase efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking crimes or identify and protect potential victims of trafficking.
Since the release of the 2019 TIP Report, the Government of Algeria prosecuted some traffickers, increased awareness of trafficking crimes by launching an anti-trafficking website, and continued work on a stand-alone anti-trafficking law. The Algerian government did not finalize procedures for officials to screen vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators, however, including migrants who continually face risks of expulsion and deportation, nor did it finalize mechanisms for referring identified or potential victims to civil society for care; and, it also did not provide appropriate shelters or other protection services to assist trafficking victims.
The Government of Iraq continued to implement measures to ensure there are no children within the Iraqi Armed Forces, while the Kurdistan Regional Government opened the Directorate of Combating Human Trafficking in June, licensed the first shelter for trafficking victims in November run by an NGO, and continued to assist IDPs and refugees – a population highly vulnerable to trafficking. Iraq has faced significant civil unrest since October, however, and the Iraqi central government has prioritized addressing governance challenges. Therefore, it is unclear if the government has made significant efforts to implement anti-trafficking measures or address the majority of the 2019 TIP Report recommendations.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
The Government of Afghanistan continued to report investigations and prosecutions of trafficking cases that did not involve child soldiers or government officials involved in bacha bazi. Government ministries continued to deny, however, any recruitment and use of children by Afghan security forces; the Ministry of Interior did not issue an internal directive to law enforcement to pursue cases of bacha bazi; and, the government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any alleged government perpetrators of child soldier recruitment or bacha bazi, despite widespread reports.
The Government of Bangladesh acceded to the Palermo Protocol; took some steps to consider MOUs to eliminate recruitment fees charged by licensed labor recruiters; gave executive direction to expand the 2013 Overseas Employment and Migrants Act to include regulation of overseas employment recruiting agents; and, more consistently solicited inputs from NGOs and civil society actors working to combat human trafficking. The government did not substantively address, however, the major delays in investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, improve identification of trafficking victims within Bangladesh or abroad, adequately screen or provide services to Bangladeshi trafficking victims in the Gulf, and it continued to deny the existence of internal child sex trafficking.
The Government of Kazakhstan increased penalties for a variety of trafficking crimes, eliminated the possibility of reconciliation in lieu of prosecuting traffickers, clarified anti-trafficking guidelines for diplomatic personnel, and trained labor inspectors. The government did not provide, however, services or assistance to foreign victims who did not participate in a criminal case, nor did it increase funding and resources for anti-trafficking police units, renew labor inspections of small businesses, or provide legal alternatives to deportations of potential victims of trafficking.
The Government of the Kyrgyz Republic adopted the National Referral Mechanism (which provides government assistance to victims without the need to file a criminal case), identified the State Migration Service as the lead government body to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts, and launched three trafficking investigations. It has not yet convicted, however, any alleged traffickers or government officials and has continued to require that victims who were compelled to commit crimes cooperate with law enforcement on prosecutions in exchange for immunity.
The Government of Maldives convened its national steering committee on trafficking for the first time in two years and began a re-registration drive to return legal status to more than 60,000 estimated undocumented migrant workers in country, connecting them with state resources and identifying five potential trafficking cases. Lack of clarity within the government on responsibility for trafficking issues and poor coordination between immigration and law enforcement, including on the re-registration drive, however, resulted in haphazard screening for potential victims and minimal progress in prosecuting traffickers.
The Government of Sri Lanka reported significantly increased trafficking-related indictments, issued directives to expedite trafficking cases, enhanced monitoring of licensed recruitment agencies, and reported increased efforts to identify potential trafficking victims. The government did not report efforts, however, to investigate allegations of official complicity in trafficking, and victim identification, particularly of Sri Lankan trafficking victims abroad, and protection services remained problematic.
The Government of Uzbekistan continued to enhance its national coordination of anti-trafficking efforts, as President Mirziyoyev signed a decree to criminalize trafficking in persons, including forced labor, and it established a national commission and created the position of national rapporteur to address trafficking crimes. The number of investigations, prosecutions, and victim identifications continued to decline, however, and reports of forced labor during the annual cotton harvest persisted, although these reports have decreased from previous years.
The Government of Barbados continued to fund victim assistance programs that could also aid victims of trafficking. The government did not publish a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons, nor did it prosecute or convict any traffickers, amend the anti-trafficking law, or increase law enforcement training to identify and assist victims.
The Government of Belize opened 10 new investigations, initiated eight prosecutions, identified five trafficking victims, provided support services to one victim and work permits to four victims, and per police policy it disciplined two police officers for attempting to work at a bar where commercial sex acts occur. The government did not investigate or prosecute any alleged child sex tourists, and it did not make any effort to identify forced labor through the national labor recruiter registry or its inspections.
The Government of Bolivia improved binational coordination of anti-trafficking efforts with Peru by approving the 2019-2020 Binational Roadmap for bilateral action related to the prevention of trafficking, protection of victims, and the prosecution of cases. With the November 10-12 unexpected change in government, it is unclear what progress the transitional government will be able to make on the other recommendations from the 2019 TIP report.
The Government of Curacao approved a new policy directive to aid public prosecutors on the criminalization of trafficking crimes, and it conducted one trafficking investigation and convicted four individuals for trafficking or trafficking-related crimes, including one in absentia. The government did not make sufficient concrete efforts to improve victim identification among Venezuelan migrants, and protection mechanisms remain weak.
The Government of Nicaragua investigated six cases and prosecuted two cases. The government did not report results to implement its national anti-trafficking strategy, nor did it amend its anti-trafficking law consistent with international law or invite a representative of civil society to participate in its national coalition.