Archive for ‘Human Trafficking’

June 6, 2015

Combating human trafficking

PM confident of TIP report boost

Prayut pledges to end trafficking in his term

  • Published: 6/06/2015 at 06:53 AM
  • Newspaper section: News

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha inaugurates June 5 as Anti-Human Trafficking Day in a ceremony at Government House on Friday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is optimistic Thailand will be removed from Tier 3 of the United States’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report which is expected to be released at the end of this month, saying the country has done all it can to combat human trafficking.

The prime minister has also pledged to end the slave trade during his government’s tenure.

Gen Prayut said the country has done its best to deal with human trafficking and that he hoped its efforts would gain international recognition and its TIP report ranking would be upgraded.

The government submitted its anti-trafficking report on March 31 to Washington for assessment, providing details about progress in combating the scourge.

In June last year, the US released its TIP report which downgraded Thailand from Tier 2 to Tier 3 — the lowest level — due to its lack of progress in combating human trafficking.

Gen Prayut also said the government is stepping up efforts to crack down on so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to avoid a European Union (EU) ban on Thailand’s seafood exports.

He said “a complete overhaul” is needed to better regulate fishing activities and crack down on IUU fishing, even though the measures will have an adverse impact on poor people working in the fishing industry.

The EU claimed Thailand has not done enough to tackle IUU fishing and gave Thailand a “yellow card” —  a final warning — on April 21.

The EU gave the country six months to address the problem or face a ban on Thai fishery exports to EU member states.

As part of the new regulations to ease IUU fishing concerns, a new fishing law was enforced from late April aimed at suppressing human trafficking and human rights violations in the fishery industry. In addition, all trawlers have been ordered to register to ensure their operations can be monitored.

During his speech to mark the 2015 National Anti-Human Trafficking Day at Government House on Friday, Gen Prayut said his government is duty-bound to eliminate all shady businesses including human trafficking.

“I am ready to tackle the problem without fear or favour,” the prime minister said.

He stressed that stricter law enforcement and cooperation with international organisations is key to ending human trafficking in Thailand during this government’s tenure.

Under this government, all state agencies must be serious about implementing existing laws, he said.

“All elements supporting human trafficking must be eliminated, be they government officials or any agencies. The government is sincere about solving the problem and is ready to cooperate with international organisations in this matter,” Gen Prayut said.

He said human trafficking had affected the rights and liberties of people and seriously infringed on the principle of human rights. It had also eroded confidence in the country, affecting trade, investment and security.

The prime minister said the root causes of human trafficking were poverty and disparities between people in society.

He said the problem of illegal migrants must be solved and the country’s labour force must be developed.

Trafficked victims must be taken care of and provided with occupational training to enable them to return to society, Gen Prayut said, adding that groups of people and government officials in “grey businesses” must be eliminated.

In doing so, the government needed to improve laws and regulations to ensure effective enforcement, he said.

Government officials found to be involved in human trafficking would face legal and disciplinary action, Gen Prayut

Meanwhile, anti-human trafficking activists and academics have urged the government to change its strategy for dealing with the problem, saying the government’s passive stance has made the human trafficking situation worse.

“If the government does not change the way it works and still engages in ‘passive’ moves to combat human trafficking, Thailand will remain in Tier 3. We deserve it,” said Supang Chantavanich, director of the Asian Research Centre for Migration at Chulalongkorn University.

Ms Supang said if high-ranking officials become involved in a case, justice will be delayed because corruption among officials is an issue in the US’s annual TIP report highlights.

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June 29, 2014

Thai Food Companies Hit by U.S. Human Trafficking Downgrade

The Wall Street Journal - Market & Finance

Thai Food Companies Hit by U.S. Human Trafficking Downgrade

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Investors are dumping shares in some of Thailand’s largest food companies as the shrimp-fishing titan faces the possibility of U.S. sanctions following a furor over the use of forced and child labor in its fishing supply chains.

Shares in agri-businesses such as Charoen Pokphand Foods PCL CPF.TH +0.94%, headed by tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont, have fallen sharply since U.K. newspaper the Guardian published an expose on June 10 detailing labor abuses in the Thai seafood industry. CP Foods is down 6.1%, Thai Union Frozen Products PCL TUF.TH 0.00% has fallen 3.6% and GFPT PCL GFPT.TH +0.78% 1.5%. In the same period, the SET benchmark stock index has risen 0.8%.

The U.S. State Department earlier this month downgraded Thailand’s ranking to the lowest level in its annual human trafficking report, alongside countries like North Korea and Cuba.

Thailand exports over $2 billion worth of shrimp each year, much of it to the U.S. It is the world’s largest shrimp exporter.

Maybank Kim Eng said in a note dated Tuesday that worse could be in store for the Thai seafood industry, flagging the possibility of an “increased risk of non-tariff barriers” for the industry. If the U.S. bans Thai seafood imports, it is “likely that the [European Union] and/or Japan will impose a ‘sympathetic’ ban, overtly or covertly,” it adds. A full ban on Thai shrimp exports could cut nominal GDP by almost 1%.

The Thai Frozen Foods Association has said that there is no use of illegal labor in the industry. CP Foods said in response to the Guardian report it would audit its entire supply chain and condemned all aspects of human trafficking and slavery in a statement on June 16. Thai Union Frozen said it will join with Thailand’s trade association and industry bodies to work on an agreement with the U.S. on possible sanctions. The company “has made it very clear to our suppliers that any misconduct in relation to human trafficking will result in immediate termination of trade relationships with no compromise,” it said in an emailed statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Some foreign supermarket chains such as France’s Carrefour SA CA.FR +0.65% and Norway’s ICA have already suspended CP Foods from their list of shrimp suppliers.

CP Foods and GFPT did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment for this article.

Maybank adds that CP Foods is likely to suffer most from the fallout because of the contribution of shrimp to its total revenues and its greater profitability than livestock. “While further weakness in the shrimp-related business may not have a significant impact on CPF’s revenue, it will affect the profitability of the Group,” Maybank said.


EU suspends free trade talks with Thailand

Shrimp, Thailand. Photo: Harnpon Juapetch

The European Union has suspended its free trade negotiations with Thailand in light of the military coup and continuing military regime in the country.

The suspension comes as Thailand faces a loss of all preferential tariff agreements on shrimp and tuna exports to the EU as of next year.

“Concerning the negotiations on the EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement, let me be very clear: we have cancelled the next negotiating round tentatively scheduled for July, and it goes without saying that we do not intend to have any further negotiating rounds against the current background,” a spokesperson for the European trade commission told Undercurrent News.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers announced that all official visits to and from Thailand will be suspended and all partnership agreements shelved, in a bid to pressure the ruling National Council for Peace and Order to restore democracy.

The EU and Thailand concluded a second round of talks towards an FTA last September, and a third round had been proposed for July.

The FTA has been seen as a solution to Thailand’s loss of preferential agreements with the EU since this year, with higher tariffs due next year including for shrimp and tuna exports.

Thailand has already seen its tariffs to the EU go up this year, and next year will lose all its preferential tariffs under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) as the World Bank still classifies it as a middle-to-upper tier income country.

This means the tariff on raw shrimp from Thailand will go from 4.2% to 12% in 2015. Under graduation, the tariff on processed shrimp — excluding cooked, shell-on –went up a year earlier, at the start of 2014, from 7% to 20%.

For tuna, Thailand will see its tariff go up as well next year but more mildly, from 21.5% to 24%.

Spanish canners have denounced the FTA talks and warned of the threat it would cause to the European tuna industry. However, Thai processors have pointed out that they have already lost significant advantages, including through tariff-free competition form the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

In a comment, a spokesperson for Thai Union Frozen Products said the company has been keeping working with customers to discuss the implications of the EU’s actions.

“As per our understanding, EU actions are more of specific measurements on diplomatic relations rather than commercial restrictions. All measures against Thailand are believed to be non-trade related,” said the spokesperson.

“However, we have been keeping meaningful dialogues and working closely with our customers and key stakeholders ensuring they understand the details and actual implications of the issue with EU actions.”

The spokesperson said the group was joining with the Trade Associations and Federations Industries of Thailand to support the Thai government in working out solutions for Thailand.

She further stressed that Thai Union adheres to strict labor practices.

“Thai Union Group has made it very clear to our suppliers that any misconduct in relation to human trafficking will result in immediate termination of trade relationships with no compromise.”

“We will continue to provide our utmost support to current Thai administration and the upcoming interim government to swiftly construct a forceful action plan to rigidly enforce all applicable laws to freeing victims, preventing trafficking and bringing traffickers to justice and serve the way forward in supporting industries, organizations and NGOs in order to rectify Thailand’s human rights violations and labor malpractices of any kind and ultimately hope improve Thailand image as a whole.”



Thai agencies preparing counter-reports for US

June 25, 2014, 5:39 pm

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Thai government officials are planning to head to the US next month to counter allegations made by the US “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report and reports by civic groups and foreign media alleging Thailand’s fishing and seafood industry uses forced labor and slavery.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry is preparing a report to explain the issue within the next three months, before sanctions are imposed by the US, reports the Bangkok Post.

Thailand’s Commerce Ministry is also countering the allegations with a plan to lead a delegation to the US next month to clarify working conditions in the seafood industry to officials and consumer group.

Meanwhile, the private sector’s trade groups have plans to present to the National Fisheries Institute on how Thailand’s operations comply with rules laid down by the International Labor Rights Organization (ILO).

The US is a key export destination. It buys 22% or BHT22 billion of Thailand’s tuna exports. It is also expected to import about 38% of the 200,000 tons of shrimp Thailand plans to ship out this year.

Shrimp and tuna processors and exporters in Thailand are also challenging non-governmental agencies and importers worldwide to see for themselves what the labor conditions are like in their fishing industry.

Associations such as the Thai Fishery Producers Coalition contend that they have been working for years to improve the working conditions in the industry to make sure there is no child labor or forced labor in the supply chain.

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June 20, 2014

Worst countries for modern slavery


Every Day in CambodiaThe FightersCocoa-nomics & chocolateOperation HopeStand in the SinaiSlavery in MauritaniaLife in SlaveryDomestic Servitude

CNN 2014 TIP Report

Human Trafficking: U.S. downgrades four countries in TIP Report

By Leif Coorlim

June 20th, 2014, 09:05 AM ET

Washington, DC (CNN) –- After several years of what it says are broken promises, the U.S. government has singled out Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela and The Gambia for taking insufficient action against human trafficking.

In its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released Friday, the U.S. State Department downgraded the four countries to Tier 3, the lowest possible ranking it gives for national responses to fighting modern day slavery.

The report says there is evidence of forced labor and sex trafficking in Malaysia and Thailand. It highlights Malaysia’s problem with migrants from other Asian nations who seek work on farms, factories and construction sites only to be trapped and have their passports taken and wages withheld.

In Thailand, the report says tens of thousands of migrants from neighboring countries are being exploited in the commercial sex industry, on fishing boats or as domestic servants.

Read: Can Thailand tackle its slavery problem?

And in Venezuela, women and girls are often lured from poor interior regions to tourist centers with the promise of false job offers. When they arrive, they are often forced into prostitution.

The report ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking, advance reforms and target resources for prevention, protection and prosecution programs.

It divides nations into four tiers based on their compliance with 11 “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

Tier 1 countries include governments fully compliant with the minimum standards.
Tier 2 Countries don’t fully comply, but are making significant efforts to do so.
• There is then a Tier 2 Watch List which includes countries with a high number of victims, or where the numbers are significantly increasing. It also includes countries where there’s insufficient evidence of acceptable efforts to improve anti-trafficking programs.
Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and have not shown the U.S. they are making significant efforts to do so.

The TIP report is an important instrument to assess the current state of anti-trafficking responses in each country.

In addition to loss of face, a Tier 3 status can also mean less money as the U.S. government may use the designation to withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian and non-trade related assistance.

Those countries could also face U.S. opposition in obtaining development aid from international financial institutions like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

Globally, more than 20 million people are believed to be ensnared in some form of human trafficking, according to the International Labour Organization.

Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, cited Thailand and Malaysia’s repeated non-compliance in meeting minimum anti-trafficking standards.

“Malaysia continues to have a victim care regime that basically locks up the victims,” added Cdebaca.

“In Thailand, we have a lot of beginnings that will hopefully come to fruition, but the report doesn’t look at promises. It looks at results.”

Four other countries had faced possible downgrades to Tier 3 included Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad and the Maldives.

Cdebaca said each of those demonstrated their governments were serious about stopping human trafficking over the course of the past year.

“In Afghanistan, for the first time now, we’re seeing 14 traffickers were convicted. We’re even seeing the conviction of soldiers,” says Cdebaca.

While the United States puts itself in the Tier 1 category, the State Department acknowledges its own problems fighting trafficking, something that hadn’t been done in the report until 2010.

Opinion: U.S. must practice what it preaches

This year’s report highlights several new groups within the U.S. that may be vulnerable to traffickers, including teens living on Native American reservations and members of the LGBT community.

Other countries listed on Tier 3 are:
• Algeria
• Central African Republic
• Cuba
• Democratic Republic of Congo
• Equatorial Guinea
• Eritrea
• Guinea-Bissau
• Iran
• Kuwait
• Libya
• Mauritania
• North Korea
• Papua New Guinea
• Russia
• Saudi Arabia
• Syria
• Uzbekistan
• Yemen
• Zimbabwe

The following countries were upgraded in this year’s report:
• Afghanistan
• Albania
• Barbados
• Chad
• Chile
• China
• Honduras
• Liberia
• Maldives
• Micronesia
• St. Lucia
• Seychelles
• Sudan
• Switzerland
• Trinidad and Tobago

Topics: Government • In The News • The Facts • TIP Report

June 20, 2014

Thailand Gets Lowest Rating in Human-Trafficking Report


Thailand Gets Lowest Rating in Human-Trafficking Report

| June 20, 2014
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The Obama administration downgraded Thailand and Malaysia to the lowest possible rating in an annual report on combating modern slavery while lifting China and Sudan from that status to a “watch list.”

Men, women, and children in Thailand, most from neighboring countries, are “forced, coerced, or defrauded” into labor in fishing-related industries, garment production, factories and brothels, according to the State Department report released today.

More than 20 million people worldwide are trapped in some form of slavery, including women confined in brothels or as domestic workers, boys forced to sell themselves on the street and men compelled to work on fishing boats, the U.S. said.

The report serves as “a road map” to “confront the scourge of trafficking,” Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in the introduction.

China and Sudan are among eight countries elevated from the lowest of the three-tier ranking, while at least four countries, including Thailand and Malaysia, were demoted to the lowest rung. According to the State Department, countries on the lowest tier may be subject to certain sanctions, including the withholding or withdrawal of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.

The U.S. had given Thailand a waiver from a downgrade for the last two years while it worked on improvements. This year, it found Thailand didn’t meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

‘Few Efforts’

“The government demonstrated few efforts to address these trafficking crimes,” the State Department said in the report. “It systematically failed to investigate, prosecute, and convict ship owners and captains for extracting forced labor from migrant workers, or officials who may be complicit in these crimes.”

Thailand, which has been wracked by political upheaval and a military coup, improved its anti-trafficking data collection and convicted 225 traffickers, according to the report. Those efforts were described as “insufficient” given the size of the problem and the involvement of corrupt Thai civilian and military officials facilitating trafficking for sex and for labor on fishing vessels.

“The government did not hold ship owners, captains, or complicit government officials criminally accountable for labor trafficking in the commercial fishing industry,” the U.S. said.

Songsak Saicheua, director-general of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a June 16 news conference that the country is working to combat trafficking.

Forced Labor

“This is our national priority, our national goal and national agenda,” he said. Thailand will “go ahead with even more intensified efforts to combat human trafficking, to get rid or significantly reduce the use of forced labor and so on.”

China is also a major source, destination, and transit country for people subjected to forced labor or sex work, the U.S. report said.

China showed improvement by eliminating a decades-old program called “reform through labor,” which required detainees to work for as many as four years making bricks, building roads, or toiling in factories or mines, according to the report.

In Sudan, where children were recruited as soldiers and forced into prostitution, the country didn’t meet minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, according to the report. Even so, the country is “making significant efforts to do so,” it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at; John Walcott at Justin Blum

June 20, 2014

Remarks at the Release of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report


Remarks at the Release of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report


John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
June 20, 2014

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SECRETARY KERRY: Ambassador Lou CdeBaca, thank you very, very much. Thank you for your leadership, primarily. You’re a visionary on this and a relentless advocate on behalf of human rights. We are all deeply grateful to you for your leadership. And Sarah Sewall, thank you for your leadership and for being part of this great effort.

And thank you all for being here. This is an assembly of people who have come here out of concern, a group of advocates, many of you part of law enforcement, many of you members of NGOs, advocacy groups, human rights activists – all of you deeply concerned. And I want to emphasize this report, the Trafficking In Persons Report, June 2014, this is not just a book, it’s not just a report filled with stories that will touch you. This is a call to action. It’s a call to conscience. It is a reminder of what happens in many dark places that need light. And we have a responsibility to try to bring that light to these individuals and to these places.

I’m very grateful to the heroes who are here. You’ll hear in a little bit about each of them as we hand out the awards. Their stories are inspiring. I’m very grateful also to all of our distinguished guests from the diplomatic corps, a number of ambassadors here. We are very, very grateful to them for coming. In fact, all of you are a testimony to the fact that trafficking in persons is one of those rare issues that could bring everybody together, whatever their politics or their ideology. I’m particularly grateful that one of the strongest advocates in the United States Congress, Congressman Chris Smith, is here and I thank him for his presence as well as for his leadership.

If the cries of those who are enslaved around the world today were an earthquake, then the tremors would be felt in every single nation on the continent on every continent simultaneously. For years, we have known that this crime affects every country in the world, including ours. We’re not exempt. More than 20 million people, a conservative estimate, are victims of human trafficking. And the United States is the first to acknowledge that no government anywhere yet is doing enough. We’re trying. Some aren’t trying enough. Others are trying hard. And we all need to try harder and do more.

At our last meeting of our all of government, President Obama has charged us with the responsibility of creating an all-of-government response. So when we sit down on this, every single Cabinet officer who has a responsibility, whether it’s DHS, Department of Justice, they’re all there, all coordinating. And I, as the chair, instructed this year that none of us should travel anywhere in the world and fail to raise this issue with our interlocutors, no matter what meetings, no matter where we are. This has to be on the agenda. (Applause.)

Whether it is a young girl trapped in a brothel or a woman enslaved as a domestic worker or a boy forced to sell himself on the street or a man abused on a fishing boat, the victims of these crimes all have names, all had families. And they each have been robbed of the right to lead their lives the way that they might choose to for themselves. All of us in this room are really all too aware that there’s perhaps no greater threat to human dignity and no greater assault on basic freedom than the evil of human trafficking, which is – as Sarah and Lou have said, this is a form – not a form – it is slavery, even in the 21st century. Now, I know that sometimes it’s difficult to see how or where somebody might be able to make a difference, but nothing should give us more hope than the courage of those who stand up and say loudly and clearly: We’re going to stop this. No more, never again.

So let me begin by thanking Under Secretary Sewall. Because time and again, Sarah has proven that when all the instruments of American power complement one another, when they do come together, we can find a way to tackle the most difficult challenges. She helped to get the nuclear testing moratorium passed when everybody said it’s impossible. She helped to reinvent counterinsurgency at a time when our force in Iraq was nearly broken and our efforts were at the precipice. And she convinced the U.S. Government, including the military, that it needed to think differently about genocide and how to act. She is a very, very welcome addition to our team here at the State Department.

I also want to thank our outstanding Ambassador-at-Large, Lou CdeBaca, for everything he has done these past years. Part conscience, part prosecutor, Lou has made it his mission to relegate human trafficking to the history books where it belongs. And he’s changing the way businesses – (applause) – he’s changing the way businesses root out abuses in their supply chains – from government contractors to private sector partners. And for Lou, the supply chains are not just product lines. They represent lines of responsibility. And we each have a responsibility to make sure that the goods we buy, we buy free of forced labor.

Now, I want to pay a special tribute to all of Lou’s team and everybody in the Trafficking in Persons Office. There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into this. This isn’t just a report churned out in a few days when there’s a deadline looming. This is not a week-long, it’s not even a month-long affair. This is a year-long effort that requires an enormous amount of focus and energy and ambition. And the Trafficking in Persons Report is common sense, it’s conscience, it’s conviction – it’s also facts – all rolled into one. And it’s a call to action to governments and citizens around the world to uncover modern slavery and hold it accountable to identify the victims, and bring their abusers to justice. There cannot be impunity for those who traffic in human beings. It must end. (Applause.) So that is the standard that we intend to hold ourselves to.

And when we put out a report like this, I want to say something. I have received calls from different parts of the world, from ministers and others who are concerned about this accountability and kind of want to push back a little, suggest it should be otherwise. This is not an act of arrogance. We hold ourselves to the same standard. This is an act of conscience. It is a requirement as a matter of advocacy and as a matter of doing what is right.

And the fight against modern slavery should matter to all of us. I know that it matters to this Department, and I’m proud to lead a Department that cares about it. When I was a prosecutor outside of Boston in the 1970s, I worked to put people behind bars for rape and for sexual assault, among other crimes. We were actually one of the very first jurisdictions in America to establish a witness-victim assistance program, in order to make sure that people weren’t twice victimized – once by the crime, and then by the system.

And my time as a prosecutor seared in me a very simple lesson: In the fight for justice and equality, all of us are really interconnected. And modern slavery does not exist in a vacuum. It’s interconnected with so many other 21st century challenges, from narcotics trafficking to all of the criminal enterprises that traffic in arms or other efforts – even global international crime creates the channels and frameworks which are used to be able to abuse these kinds of processes. And I learned that back when I was uncovering the Noriega drug connections and the banking system that gave into it and the willingness of people to entertain people, including Usama bin Ladin, who was part of the clientele of a particular bank that we uncovered. That’s what happens. Other criminal activity is empowered, and it all rips and tears at the fabric of rule of law and of viable states remaining viable.

So we have to combat this. Obviously, there is no denying that we face big challenges. Big countries tackle big challenges every single day, and that’s, I think, what defines us. So even as we know that Iraq is in trouble and we’re dealing with conflicts still in Afghanistan and other places, that’s no reason to back off. It’s no reason to turn away. There is no excuse for not pursuing all of these things. We have the ability to multi-task, we have the ability to stay focused, and in the end, they’re all connected because the networks that fund terrorists are the same networks that permit people to move this kind of money illicitly around the world.

We are talking about real people – men and women, boys and girls, transgender individuals – whose lives have been abandoned to the most depraved instincts. Because on this World Refugee Day we are especially mindful of our common responsibility to care for the most vulnerable, for the displaced, and for those who migrate in search of a better life.

Now, I know in today’s world with all of the hurly-burly of everyday life, with massive amounts of media coming at everybody, it’s pretty easy to miss the human faces behind the statistics. So I just want to share with you a few stories, if I can, to put faces to this crime – a few ways that you will see how modern slavery is a stain on the conscience of the world.

Abeo is a young woman from Nigeria. And one night, she was abducted from her home – from her home – and forced into prostitution. She suffered unspeakable crimes – from beatings to rape to forced labor. And after learning that she was pregnant from one of the many rapes that she had endured, her traffickers sent her by boat to Spain. Her traffickers told her that she owed them tens of thousands of dollars for the cost of the journey, and they planned to force her into prostitution there in order to pay for it. Her situation was horrific by any standard. But Abeo did not just persevere. She reported the threat to Spanish authorities, when she found a place that she was able to go to where there was a system of law. And thanks to her courage and thanks to the commitment of the authorities in Spain, the human trafficking ring that abused her was broken up and its leaders were brought to justice.

So here’s the lesson that Abeo teaches us: Wherever rule of law is weak, where corruption is most ingrained, and where populations can’t count on the protection of governments and of law enforcement, there you find zones of vulnerability to trafficking. But wherever rule of law is strong, where individuals are willing to speak out and governments willing to listen, we find zones of protection against trafficking. And that is what is possible if we double down on dignity, which is what we are doing here today.

But if you dive deeper, you’ll see that some of the worst abuses happen in places that we rarely think to look – within the supply chains of logging and mining industries, on board fishing vessels, and in processing plants.

Oscar, a young boy from Peru. His cousin worked in the mining region and he told him stories about being paid in chunks of gold. So Oscar left home at 16 for Peru’s forests with the dream of finding a job. But those dreams became his nightmare the moment he arrived at the gold mine. The owner told him that he had to work 90 days just to repay the fee his cousin got for recruiting him. Oscar thought about running away, but the owner controlled the river traffic. Escape was simply not an option. So he stayed. He toiled in deplorable conditions. He contracted malaria and was left to die in a hut. After eight months, Oscar returned home only to come down with yellow fever. He had to borrow money from his family to pay for a doctor. He fell into debt and returned to the very forests he’d worked to escape just months before.

Here’s what Oscar teaches us: Exacting profits from exploiting people often go hand in hand in illegal, unsustainable, and unregulated industries – the very things we’re trying to fight: unregulated, unsustainable, exploited outside of the law. And they destroy all of commerce, because they undermine the legitimacy of the rest of the business world. From Latin America to Africa to Asia, to other parts of the world, there are illegal mining and logging that can create not only environmental degradation because it operates outside of the law and regulatory concepts, but zones of impunity where trafficking can prey on their victims. So we need to bring these industries and these people that they exploit out of the shadows. And we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Now obviously, it’s not just illegal mining and logging where you find this kind of a problem. And how do I know that? Because of the story of a woman named Flor.

Flor was a seamstress from Mexico. She worked two jobs just to support her young children. One day, she heard about a sewing opportunity in the United States. Her recruiter told her that she’d make a lot more money if she – than she did in Mexico, and therefore she’d be able to give her kids a better life. So she headed for the border. When she got there, the woman who arranged her trip stripped her of her identification documents and her belongings. She was taken immediately to a sewing factory and put to work – from four in the morning until late at night. She was beaten, abused, and prevented from leaving the factory. After 40 days of this hell, she managed to escape to a local church. And they got the help she needed, and today, she is a leader in the national survivors’ caucus in the United States.

So here’s what Flor teaches us: We need to integrate anti-trafficking efforts into all areas of our diplomatic and development work. Trafficking is a criminal enterprise, plain and simple. The profits alone exceed $150 billion a year. No company can compete with another company that’s willing to inhumanely commercialize its workforce. And if we want to have our legitimate businesses compete on a fair playing field, then we need to end the climate of impunity behind these hidden sectors of the economy.

And that is why the State Department is working with civil society to prevent corporate and federal dollars from abetting this crime. That’s why we’re partnering with –[1] – in order to develop a risk assessment tool that will help business leaders weigh the risks of trafficking throughout their supply chains. And that’s why we’re teaming up with Verite, an award-winning labor-rights NGO, in order to develop a range of resources for businesses committed to eradicating this scourge, from trainings and awareness programs to plans for recruitment and fair wages and housing.

So my friends, in summary, the lessons here are as clear as they are compelling: When we embrace our common humanity and stand up for the dignity of all people, we realize the vision of a world that is more caring and more just – a world free from slavery. That is the vision that inspired generations of abolitionists who have preceded us. William Wilberforce spent a lifetime fighting to end slavery throughout the British Empire. Standing before parliament, he said: “Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Today, thanks to Abeo, Oscar, Flor and so many other survivors, thanks to the 10 that we will honor today, we all know about the horrors of modern slavery. And we are determined, we will not look the other way. That’s what this year’s report is all about. That’s our cause of action now, and together, I am convinced that we can and we will make a difference.

Thank you all. (Applause.)



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