Earlier this year, The US Department of State released its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for 2016. Using a diagnostic tool called the 3Ps – prosecuting traffickers, protecting and empowering victims, and preventing future trafficking crimes – the Department of State assesses government efforts in combating human trafficking.
A total of 185 countries were analyzed in the report of which 36 were placed on Tier 1, 78 on Tier 2, 44 on Tier 2 Watch List, and 27 on Tier 3. According to the DOS, while Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem.
A Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA’s minimum standards. Each year, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking to maintain a Tier 1 ranking. In all, there were 27 countries downgraded and 20 upgraded.
An example of progress identified in the report was from Philippines, which earned a Tier 1 ranking after two years on Tier 2 Watch List and five years on Tier 2. Philippines showed a strong, coordinated government effort to combat human trafficking across the 3Ps by (1) Prosecution convicting 42 traffickers, including several complicit government officials. (2) Protecting by identified trafficking victims exploited within the country and assisting roughly 1,500 during the reporting period particularly male victims; and (3) Preventing by increasing its funding for the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which runs anti-trafficking prevention campaigns for migrant workers.
The report also showed several countries that did not made progress this year. For example, Sudan ranked Tier 3 this year largely because the government continued to deny the existence of sex trafficking of adults and children, and did not report efforts to address forced labor. The report also claims that the Sudanese authorities continued to punish trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as immigration violations, and that undermines any effort to establish a victim-centered approach.
Another example given was Serbia, where efforts to identify victims and prosecute traffickers decreased, and the government did not afford victims sufficient protection in criminal proceedings or provide them with specialized services.
An improvement was seen in changing laws, where since 2015 30 countries have adopted or amended trafficking laws, one of the highest numbers in recent years. The adoption of effective anti-trafficking laws provides the foundation for states to prosecute traffickers and provide for victim services. Furthermore, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Singapore became parties to the landmark UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, bringing the total to 169. The 2016 TIP Report has the largest number of Tier 1 countries since the inception of the report.
The Role of NGOs in their efforts to legally register marginalized populations was also discussed in the report and a Vietnam NGO was used as an example that helped register more than 2,000 ethnic minorities in areas at high risk for human trafficking. Legal registration facilitates access to formal education, health care, and employment in the formal economy and significantly decreases risk factors for potential victims.
Three particular areas for improvement mentioned are:
- The need for increased protection for domestic workers and stronger efforts to root out corrupt and complicit officials who are themselves engaged in or benefiting from trafficking;
- A place for protections of victims so they are not penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of trafficking and;
- Increase in support services available to victims.
The report ended with a recommendation to not criminalizing trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked.