A few years ago I was in northern Thailand visiting a safe house filled with women rescued from human trafficking.
The director of the home told me that the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act--and the annual TIPS (Trafficking in Persons) Report that accompanies it--has made an enormous dent in the multi-billion dollar industry of human trafficking.
This morning the US State Department released the 2009 TIPS Report. This is the 9th annual report.
As always, it ranks most countries of the world into 3 tiers according to their efforts to stop human trafficking within and across their borders.
Tier 1 countries are doing a good job:
This year there are 28 countries in Tier 1, from Australia to the UK.
Last year there were 29; Hong Kong, Hungary, and Madagascar have sadly moved to Tier 2. Mauritius, Nigeria have thankfully moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1.
Tier 2 countries are making some efforts to deal with trafficking, but not enough:
76 countries are on this tier (last year there were 70), including Afghanistan, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, and others.
Tier 2 watchlist countries are in danger of moving to Tier 3 unless they take immediate action:
The 52 countries on this year's watchlist include Cambodia, China, Guatemala, India, Russia, Venezuela, and others.
Last year there were 41, so a significant number have been added to the watchlist, while many have moved off it (either up or down).
Tier 3 countries are doing virtually nothing to stop human trafficking that is rampant within their borders:
This year there are 17 countries in this ranking (up from 14 in 2008) including Burma, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.
New this year are Eritrea, Malaysia, Mauritania, Niger, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
Gone are Algeria, Moldova, and Qatar, which all moved to the watchlist.
As always, the TIPS Report includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. It features stories of heroes who work to stop the traffic and gives examples of excellent programs in various places around the world that are doing a great job to rescue victims and bring traffickers to justice.
The report also includes heartrending stories of people who were trafficked--and escaped or were rescued to tell their story.
In her remarks before the TIPS report release, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rightly stressed that trafficking occurs in all countries--including the U.S. She announced that the US Department of Justice was releasing its own report, which covers trafficking in the US.
It's not pretty reading, but my philosophy has always been if people can endure being trafficked--especially children--the least I can do is acknowledge what they've been through by hearing their stories.
"This report is their story," writes newly appointed Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. "It is the story of governments, organizations, and individuals who give such survivors a chance for freedom. It is on their behalf, and in the spirit of a common humanity, that we seek a global partnership for the abolition of modern slavery."
UPDATE: You can listen to the remarks of Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador CdeBaca, who both spoke this morning to introduce the new report.