The annual US Trafficking in Persons Report is out. And there are some notable changes.
For one, the US Department of State report downgraded Saudi Arabia and Cuba to its lowest ranking — Tier 3 — for failing to make efforts against human trafficking. In particular, the US called out Saudi Arabia for abuses of its vast migrant workforce and Cuba for its exploitative program of sending doctors overseas.
Among the other 21 countries in Tier 3 were China, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela. By being placed in Tier 3, the US can restrict aid or withdraw support for the country at the IMF and other global development agencies.
Al Jazeera reports on another major change:
The 2019 report also dropped a warning from the 2018 issue that traffickers prey on children separated from their parents, a practice that US President Trump applied to thousands of migrant families.
“The physical and psychological effects of staying in residential institutions, combined with societal isolation and often subpar regulatory oversight by governments, place these children in situations of heightened vulnerability to human trafficking,” the 2018 report said.
The US section of this year’s report made no mention of the separation of more than 2,700 children from migrant families who crossed the US-Mexico border between official ports of entry, and the children’s placement in government custody.
The TIP report also calls out China for its mass incarceration camps of one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim members of Turkic-speaking minorities in Xinjiang province. While China describes these camps as vocational training centers, observers say they are subjecting ethnic minorities to forced labor, producing garments, carpets, cleaning supplies in on-site factories.
At a press conference on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US took measures against 22 countries due to their ranking in the TIP report.
“That action and the message that goes with it is very clear – if you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you,” he said.