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Important tips for the Trafficking in Persons US State Department report of 2012

16 Sep

Earlier this year, before Olympic fever spread across the globe, the United States Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report (Tip Report). The Report, issued in June each year in accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sets out to provide a comprehensive account of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts around the world. It acts both as a primary reference and as a source of information on government efforts to combat the trade. The Report reviews the work of 184 countries and then ranks them according to three tiers based on the extent of trafficking in the country concerned, and the progress being made to combat it. These rankings act as the United States Government’s primary diplomatic tool regarding anti-trafficking efforts by foreign governments, representing an opening for dialogues with different states, aimed at advancing anti-trafficking actions and a better allocation of resources.

At first glance, it is apparent that many countries have improved their performance in combating trafficking. While Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic were recently ranked as having paid poor attention to human trafficking, new legislation and the implementation of comprehensive strategies to attend to the Four Ps – Prevention, Protection, Punishment and Partnerships – have moved both countries up a tier. Meanwhile the Czech Republic, which slipped down a tier last year, regained its Tier 1 status, following developments in anti-trafficking laws and the securing of a number of convictions under this new legislation.

However it is notable that the tier rankings of certain states have not improved over time, with several countries falling down a tier again this year. Many of these countries are plagued with widespread violence and conflict. such conditions have made the assessment of anti trafficking efforts and developments more difficult. It remains, though, that while the Report aims to encourage better efforts regarding the Four Ps, certain states are not responding to the measuring ‘stick’ it represents.

In large part, such a failure to respond may be the result of the United States being perceived as failing to allocate funds based on the recommendations of the tier system. While the Report’s aim to improve anti-trafficking efforts through a carrot and stick approach of economic benefits for efforts to comply with standards and sanctions for continued failures to meet standards, the continued failure to actually apply sanctions on certain states, whilst continuing to sanction others, has led to a growing perception of bias. Such accusations were articulated on the 19th June 2012 by Russia, which expressed clear discontent at its continued placement in Tier 2, whilst other states, including the United States itself, continue to receive a Tier 1 ranking despite profound trafficking issues and large numbers of identified victims.

The Report undoubtedly provides valuable and indeed critical information, currently being one of a select body of those collating trafficking data now including the efforts of the International Labour Organization and the recently upgraded research capacity of the United Nations GIFT hub. However the above complaints highlight some valid issues around the nature of the evaluation system being used to rank countries. First, the criteria and requirements for tier placement are difficult to identify. They are mired in complexity, which added to a lack of transparency in the way in which data is collected, collated and translated into ranking positions, opens up the Report to partiality. Second, the Report only assesses the actions of governments and not the actions of other organisations operating within a designated country. Such a limitation means that organisations which may have significant impacts on trafficking, remain unaccounted for and not fully assessed.  Third the ranking adopt United States standards rather than internationally agreed standards, imparting culturally specific criteria that could result in unique factors operating in other countries being ignored. For instance , several Caribbean and South American states have pointed out that their child labour problem is being overstated, as it is common for young family members to help out with agricultural harvest, without being paid. They argue that this is a culturally normal, non-exploitative, household-based form of labour in states where farming remains resolutely a family effort.

What all this evidence suggests, is a need for the United States to engage other countries and jurisdictions in formulating the Report for 2013. Developing co-operation around data collection and the matrices which inform the interpretative grid, must occur both before, during the process of collation and after publication. The State Department needs to take heed of its own advice and focus on the fourth P of Partnership building. By mobilising different resources and working with its critics, the Department will be able to build greater counter-trafficking resilience, understandings and interventions based on clear evidence and transparent processes which are essential to push the fight against trafficking further along its path.

South African life imprisonment for child trafficker

21 Jul

Our thanks to Advocate Beatri Kruger who works in at the Free State University in South Africa for the following update on South Africa where the legislature is developing its response to Human Trafficking –  she informs us about the following news released yesterday.

Human trafficker Adina dos Santos was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Pretoria Regional Court on the 20th July 2011. Dos Santos was found guilty of trafficking three girls from Mozambique who had been forced into prostitution and worked in South Africa. Dos Santos was in addition to life imprisonment, also given a one-year sentence for living off the money she had made from the girls.

This is very significant case. The giving of a life-sentence now clearly sends the message that human trafficking is categorised among the most serious of crimes in South Africa and signals clearly that those who traffick in human beings can no longer get away with impunity, or light sentencing in South Africa.

Dos Santos was convicted of sex trafficking under the terms of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 32 of 2007.  South Africa is currently reviewing its legislation on human trafficking and its comprehensive legislation regarding both child and adult trafficking has still not passed through the legislature. However there is interim legislation in place criminalising

-all forms of child trafficking and

-sex trafficking of adults

which are now in force on which courts are reaching their judgements, and judges sentencing on the strength of them.

In May two Chinese women who allegedly ran a brothel in Goodwood, South Africa were accussed of  luring young women from China to South Africa. They were charged with keeping a brothel and human trafficking, but because the charges involve sexual offences, they have not yet been named until they plead.  They were set bail conditions of R5000  – less than £500 each.

The women were accused of luring young Chinese women to South Africa with false promises of jobs that paid monthly salaries of up to R50,000 (£4,481). Chinese women are some of the most at risk women and girls in the world, in the current global movement of women for sex, domesticated servitude and trafficked labour.

The dos Santos judgement,  is just one part of the long haul in getting a grip internationally on the globally realised crime of human trafficking – but an important one.  As IOM acting chief of mission in South Africa Erick Ventura noted –
‘human traffickers in South Africa have in the past been rarely taken to court and only charged with minor offences such as “keeping a brothel” when they have been brought for prosecution.’

Without appropriate – punishment fits the crime judgements – those who benefit from as much as £100,000 per woman/minor exploited within trafficking for sexual exploitation – will continue to ply their illicit merchandising.  Other dimensions of the trade need to be addressed as well. Importantly, dos Santos would have made no money whatsoever if there had been no clients to purchase the three young Mozambicans whom she had imported and forced into prostitution. And thereby hangs a longer and more critical cultural conversation for most countries in the world to engage with.

If you have news on recent judgements or decisions occurring in your context on which you would like us to comment or feature in the CCARHT blog drop us a line on