Wednesday, June 20, 2012

U.S. Adds Syria to List of Nations Failing to Combat Human Trafficking

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Published: June 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — While some governments are making significant strides to end modern-day slavery, the State Department on Tuesday singled out 17 others that it said were “treating victims as criminals or ignoring them entirely.”
In its 2012 report on human trafficking, the department added Syria to the list of nations that could face American sanctions for not doing enough to combat forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The report said the violence in Syria had weakened security and made it difficult to monitor anti-trafficking efforts.

The other countries that the report said were falling well short of standards and not making substantial efforts to improve conditions were Algeria, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Thirty-three of the 185 countries reviewed complied fully with laws geared toward ending human trafficking. Forty-two others were placed on a watch list indicating that, besides falling short of standards, they either have a particularly large number of victims or cannot provide convincing proof that they are making strong efforts to fight trafficking.

The State Department estimates that 27 million people worldwide, most of them women and children, are victims of human trafficking, forced into labor or prostitution.

“Ultimately, this report reminds us of the human cost of this crime,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday. “Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life, and our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach.”

The report said that governments’ concerns about illegal immigration had sometimes hampered their response to trafficking. “Trafficking indicators are missed, and victims are wrongly classified as illegal migrants and criminals,” the report said.

The actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who attended the report’s release, said she had been inspired to lend her voice to the fight against trafficking after her daughter, Willow, 11, saw the video about the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony that became an Internet sensation this year.

“When she realized there were children being trafficked as child soldiers,” Ms. Smith said, “she got on the Internet and started to do research and realized there were actually kids her age that were being trafficked into sex slavery, and it just surprised her, and she came to me and she said, ‘Mommy, did you know that there were girls being trafficked who are my age?’ ”

“I want people to just be more aware that it exists,” she added. “I’m ashamed to say that it took my 11-year-old daughter to bring it to my awareness.”

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