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 2020 TIP Report, 46 countries met the criteria for 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 2019 TIP Report or (2) were ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List in the 2020 TIP Report.
The Secretary of State ranked each of the countries or territories included in the 2020 TIP Report on one of four tiers, as mandated by the TVPA. Tier placement reflects an evaluation of a government’s actions to combat trafficking assessed against specific criteria outlined in the TVPA. Governments that fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking are ranked 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, but do not meet them all, are ranked on Tier 2. The Watch List criteria are considered and, if applicable, Tier 2 countries are ranked 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 ranked on Tier 3.
Tier 1: Countries and territories whose governments fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards.
Tier 2: 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.
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 significantly increasing 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 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 measures are reasonable to bring the government into compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities. In addition to these considerations as to whether the government of a country is not making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the Department also considers, as proof of failure to make significant efforts, a government policy or pattern of: trafficking; trafficking in government-funded programs; forced labor (in government-affiliated medical services, agriculture, forestry, mining, construction, or other sectors); sexual slavery in government camps, compounds, or outposts; or employing or recruiting child soldiers.
The Department of State has collected information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the 46 Special Watch List countries to inform the Department’s ongoing engagement with foreign governments on their anti-trafficking efforts and to aid identification of new challenges and trends. There is some evidence that COVID-19 has exacerbated trafficking situations and that traffickers are exploiting the increased vulnerability of millions of people worldwide in forced labor or sex trafficking. However, information related to COVID-19 and the new challenges it has posed is not incorporated into this assessment.
The Government of Cameroon reconstituted the Committee to Combat Child Labor; convicted two traffickers; increased efforts to raise awareness among officials about trafficking through the National Referral System and Standard Operating Procedures; restored and staffed its inter- ministerial committee to enhance interagency coordination to counter trafficking; and adopted an anti-trafficking action plan. However, the government has not made significant progress on amending anti-trafficking laws to remove the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion for child sex trafficking offenses.
The Government of Chad investigated and prosecuted suspected traffickers and raised awareness of trafficking in persons through local radio media and with local tribal leaders. However, the government did not fully fund or implement its 2020-2021 action plan.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo trained judicial authorities; strengthened data collection and case referral procedures through the efforts of the national anti- trafficking agency; and ceased coordinating with warlord Guidon Shimiray Mwissa, responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers. However, the government did not develop comprehensive procedures to guide officials in victim identification and referral, nor did it enact necessary anti- trafficking legislation.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea investigated at least four potential trafficking cases; provided training for security forces on identifying trafficking victims; and worked with civil society organizations to increase awareness of trafficking among national and local government officials, as well as the public. However, the government did not fully fund or implement its national action plan.
The Government of The Gambia implemented a national referral mechanism; conducted awareness-raising trainings with social workers, law enforcement, prosecutors, and tourism sector representatives; and reconvened the anti-trafficking steering committee. However, the government did not increase the number of prosecutions or investigations into suspected human trafficking cases.
The Government of Guinea convened meetings of the anti-trafficking committee; collaborated with international partners to train law enforcement officials on victim identification; and arrested six women for alleged child trafficking. However, the government did not make significant progress in identifying, assisting, and referring victims to services.
The Government of Guinea-Bissau coordinated with Senegalese NGOs on the repatriation of trafficking victims to Senegal and resumed regular meetings of the National Committee for the Prevention and Fight against Trafficking in Persons. However, the government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict traffickers; hold government officials accountable for alleged trafficking-related complicity; train officials on the 2011 anti-trafficking law; or strengthen law enforcement efforts to prevent and investigate child sex tourism.
The Government of Mali delivered anti-trafficking and victim identification trainings to law enforcement and the judiciary, in partnership with international organizations; collaborated with NGOs to increase the number of shelters available for trafficking victims; prosecuted several suspected traffickers; and repatriated an unknown number of trafficking victims to Nigeria. However, the government did not sufficiently increase efforts to prevent child soldiering; improve victim identification; promote victim-centric interviewing; or make efforts to combat hereditary slavery.
The Government of Mauritania enacted anti-trafficking legislation that brought its law closer in line with international standards; engaged civil society, including anti-slavery NGOs previously ignored or suppressed by former governments, in meetings and roundtable discussions; and ruled on two slavery cases in the specialized anti-slavery court. However, the government did not fully fund or implement its national action plan, nor did it make significant efforts to support victims or proactively screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations.
The Government of Namibia provided training to social workers on the national referral mechanism and its associated standard operating procedures; held quarterly meetings of its national anti-trafficking coordination body; drafted the first national action plan on trafficking in persons; and continued to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers. However, the government did not fully implement its action plan, train officials on the 2018 anti-trafficking law, or overcome backlogs of trafficking cases in regional and high courts.
The Government of Nigeria prosecuted an official on trafficking charges; referred a military official accused of trafficking to civilian courts; and established special teams assigned to IDP camps to raise awareness of trafficking and legal recourse among IDPs. However, the government did not finalize or adopt the protocol for referring children identified in armed conflict to protection services as proposed by UNICEF.
The Government of Senegal allocated significant resources and funding to its national anti- trafficking task force; launched a project to raise awareness of forced child begging and provide services to child victims; arrested suspected traffickers; and initiated prosecutions. However, the government did not increase efforts to regulate and inspect Quranic schools to prevent exploitative begging and uphold child protection standards; establish a system to automatically trigger criminal investigations when authorities identify potential trafficking victims; or significantly increase efforts to actively investigate and criminally prosecute trafficking offenses, including those who exploit children in forced begging.
The Government of Seychelles established a high-level committee to evaluate existing child sexual exploitation prevention measures and maintained funding for anti-trafficking resources despite a significant budget deficit. However, the government did not finalize its national action plan or develop comprehensive procedures to guide officials in victim identification and referral.
Sudan’s Civilian Led Transitional Government (CLTG) convened an expert committee to revise the country’s 2014 anti-trafficking law and drafted revised articles that remained pending with the Ministry of Justice. However, the CLTG did not report efforts to prosecute traffickers, identify and protect victims, raise awareness of the crime, or train officials.
The Government of Tanzania prosecuted and convicted suspected traffickers; identified and referred victims to care; assisted in the repatriation of Tanzanian and foreign national victims; and conducted training for law enforcement, immigration officials, and other stakeholders. However, the government did not amend its law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment, implement the protection provisions of the 2008 anti-trafficking act, or fund the national anti-trafficking committee.
The Government of Uganda completed its interagency review and finalized its National Action Plan for 2019-2024; issued the National Referral Guidelines for Management of Victims of Trafficking; and supported repatriation of Ugandan victims abroad. However, the government did not allocate sufficient funds to support all activities of the national anti-trafficking coordinating office, provide an interim report on investigations of suspected trafficking cases, or establish or provide sufficient funds for victim assistance programming.
The Government of Zambia screened several groups of vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators; implemented its national referral mechanism to identify trafficking victims and refer them to services; and convicted at least one trafficker. However, the government did not pass amendments to bring the 2008 anti-trafficking law in line with international standards or provide adequate protective services to victims, and placed many identified victims, including children, in detention facilities.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
The Government of Brunei formalized a new national action plan, allocated victim compensation funds, and dedicated a specialized shelter for male and female trafficking victims. However, the government did not initiate any trafficking prosecutions despite indicators of labor trafficking.
The Government of Cambodia – for the first time in several years – provided data on trafficking prosecutions and convictions covering the first half of 2020, and it developed guidelines for victim identification. However, the government did not inspect businesses suspected of facilitating human trafficking crimes, especially brick kilns or entertainment establishments, and did not authorize the use of undercover investigative techniques for anti-trafficking operations.
The Government of Fiji took steps to improve coordination to provide victim services by establishing a committee with civil society organizations and continued to hold interagency meetings to finalize a National Human Trafficking Strategy for 2021-2026. However, the government did not amend the trafficking-related provisions of the Crimes Act to criminalize all forms of trafficking, proactively investigate alleged official complicity in trafficking-related crimes, or make efforts to improve coordination between police and prosecutors working on trafficking cases.
The Government of Hong Kong screened 5,000 individuals for indicators of trafficking, temporarily suspended the requirement that foreign domestic workers return to their home countries following the end or termination of their contracts, and collaborated with an NGO to investigate a debt bondage scheme among employment agencies. However, the government did not take steps to enact legislation to criminalize all forms of trafficking and only identified two trafficking victims.
The Government of Macau introduced a bill in the Legislative Assembly to limit the amount of recruitment fees that employment agencies can charge to non-resident workers to, in part, decrease their vulnerability to debt bondage. However, the government did not increase efforts to prosecute traffickers or identify any trafficking victims.
The Government of Malaysia established standard operating procedures for victim identification; increased engagement with anti-trafficking nongovernmental and civil society organizations; publicized arrests of police, military, and immigration officials for complicity in human smuggling and trafficking offenses; and expanded a Victim Assistance Specialist program that was originally launched in March 2019. However, the government did not make demonstrable progress in improving interagency coordination, overall victim identification, and protection efforts; and its efforts to conduct comprehensive investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers remained inadequate.
The Government of the Marshall Islands conducted trafficking awareness training. However, the government did not employ proactive procedures to identify trafficking victims among all vulnerable groups, such as women in commercial sex and foreign fishermen, or train officials on their use; and, it did not finalize and implement its revised national action plan.
The Government of Singapore increased its engagement with NGOs, meeting monthly to discuss the provision of services to migrant worker populations vulnerable to trafficking. However, despite maintaining a legal limit on fees collected from workers by Singapore-based employment agencies, the government has yet to implement an “employer-pays” recruitment fee structure or take additional steps to end the practice of recruitment fees charged to workers by overseas recruitment agencies.
The Government of Timor-Leste modestly improved interagency coordination on victim assistance efforts and took steps to finalize the draft decree that would establish the competencies of the human trafficking commission. However, the government did not improve its data collection as a means to develop accurate information about trafficking cases and identified victims, nor did it improve overall victim identification, referral, and protection efforts.
The Government of Vietnam reported anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, including a labor trafficking investigation; identified and provided assistance to trafficking victims; and increased public awareness raising efforts. However, the government did not fully address predatory recruitment practices for migrant workers, pass legislative revisions addressing the provision of victim assistance, or implement government-wide policies to identify and assist victims among vulnerable groups.
EUROPE AND EURASIA
The Government of Armenia adopted the 2020-2022 National Action Plan and allocated $155,500 for its implementation; convicted a trafficker and sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment, which was the government’s first conviction in two years; and drafted trafficking indicators for first responders. However, the government paused prosecutions due to delays caused by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the trafficking council did not meet.
The Government of Azerbaijan adopted a national action plan, issued fewer suspended sentences for convicted traffickers, and started building its fourth shelter for trafficking victims. However, the government convicted fewer traffickers overall, slowed investigations and prosecutions, and temporarily suspended operations at a trafficking shelter damaged during shelling in the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina restructured and trained local anti-trafficking coordinating teams; allocated resources to the strike force, a law enforcement coordinating body; and created an efficient mechanism to distribute funding for victim protection. However, the government prosecuted trafficking under lesser offences and continued to lack proactive efforts to identify victims, subsequently penalizing victims due to inadequate identification.
The Government of Ireland established a national anti-trafficking coordination committee composed of interagency and civil society stakeholders, which met twice; designated an independent human trafficking National Rapporteur; and, in coordination with an international organization, launched a national anti-trafficking public awareness campaign. However, the government did not report prosecuting any trafficking offenses or convicting any traffickers; address systematic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance, including for vulnerable populations and sea fishers; or improve sufficiency of services for victims, including specialized accommodation.
The Government of Romania adopted a national action plan, addressing each 2020 TIP Report recommendation. However, a legislative change, applicable until corrected on November 29, shortened the statute of limitations for the offense of trafficking in minors, if committed prior to the date of the correction, resulting in prosecutors having less time to conclude cases.
The Government of Jordan collaborated with partners to increase anti-trafficking training for law enforcement and implemented new case management procedures to improve trafficking investigations. However, the government did not pass amendments to the anti-trafficking law, or consistently refer trafficking victims to shelters due to low awareness of the referral process.
The Government of Saudi Arabia launched an updated electronic version of the Wage Protection System and required all companies to enroll by the end of 2020; announced major reforms to the sponsorship system; coordinated law enforcement agencies to improve screening processes to protect potential trafficking victims; and collaborated with international partners to increase training on the National Referral Mechanism, victim identification, and relevant anti-trafficking laws for government officials. However, the government did not pursue criminal investigations against officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes and did not consistently sentence traffickers to significant prison terms under the anti-trafficking law.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
The Government of Bhutan repatriated 132 trafficking victims from Iraq and opened a criminal investigation into employment agencies responsible for sending these Bhutan nationals to Iraq and approved pending legislation to bring its definition of human trafficking in line with international standards. However, the government did not train law enforcement or labor inspectors on the new anti-trafficking law and did not provide training to increase the capacity of law enforcement to identify potential victims.
The Government of Kazakhstan convicted more traffickers, including three labor traffickers; initiated a number of legislative and regulatory amendments to address recommendations on prosecution, protection, and prevention from the 2020 TIP Report, including steps to amend the Social Code and processes to draft new standalone trafficking legislation; and drafted and submitted for government approval a new national action plan. However, the government did not implement changes to the legal code and or provide government-funded assistance to foreign victims.
The Government of the Kyrgyz Republic secured one conviction in a case related to trafficking and initiated an official review by the Prosecutor General’s Office of more than 300 downgraded trafficking cases, resulting in the approval of 26 cases for reinvestigation. However, the government delayed implementation of the National Referral Mechanism, adopted in 2019.
The Government of Maldives established an Anti-Trafficking in Persons office and submitted amendments to Parliament to bring its anti-trafficking act in line with international standards. However, the government did not institutionalize standard operating procedures on identifying trafficking victims or increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for all forms of trafficking.
The Government of Pakistan passed legislation aimed at protecting laborers and, particularly, children. However, the government did not designate specialized prosecutors and judges to hear trafficking cases.
The Government of Sri Lanka disseminated an anti-trafficking toolkit to the Police Academy and trained more government officials on victim identification. However, the government did not properly screen for potential victims, improve victim support services, or adopt a new national action plan on combating trafficking in persons.
The Government of Uzbekistan continued efforts to eliminate forced labor in the cotton harvest through increased labor inspections, issuance of misdemeanor charges and fines for those found violating labor laws, expansion and protection of civil society harvest monitor access, and provision of additional support to victims and alleged victims of trafficking. However, the government again did not criminally convict any individuals found guilty of cotton harvest labor trafficking or amend its existing law that allows first-time offenders to pay fines in lieu of imprisonment.
The Government of Aruba revived a dormant working group to address trafficking risks in commercial sex and launched a trafficking awareness webinar series. However, the government did not report any new trafficking prosecutions or convictions; delayed implementation of a plan to construct a shelter until 2021; and did not train relevant officials, including judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement, on victim-centered approaches.
The Government of Barbados formed and convened an interagency committee, led by the Attorney General’s office, to develop strategies to combat trafficking. However, the government did not proactively screen vulnerable groups; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers with adequate sentences; allocate adequate funding for anti-trafficking measures; amend the anti-trafficking law to remove fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses; or implement a national action plan.
The Government of Belize actively investigated and arrested traffickers; made sustained efforts to identify trafficking victims; provided services to all identified victims; trained prison officials on victim identification; and investigated a police officer accused of complicity in a case. However, the government did not initiate any new prosecutions, establish a National Labor Recruiter registry, or investigate or prosecute any alleged child sex tourists despite ongoing concerns.
The Government of Curaçao drafted new victim identification standard operating procedures with assistance from an international organization; provided training to migrant detention center personnel to screen for trafficking indicators; and, upon appeal, secured stronger sentences for four alleged traffickers in a 2018 case. However, the government did not fully fund or implement the national action plan or victim protection mechanisms, including access to basic care services and shelter, especially for foreign victims.
The Government of the Dominican Republic initiated investigation of five trafficking cases; arrested three suspected traffickers; identified three female trafficking victims; and sentenced convicted traffickers to significant prison terms. However, the government did not remove or investigate a prosecutor identified as having sexually abused an identified trafficking victim; increase prosecutions; start a program to proactively screen for trafficking indicators, including among the Haitian population; refer any domestic trafficking victims for services; or establish a dedicated budget for victim services or shelters.