“The Gulf States, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, are historically notorious for violating human rights, including failing to take human trafficking within its borders. Within the last year, there have been some encouraging signs although much work remains to be done.”
On Tuesday, June 27, the U.S. State Department released its 17th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which analyzes the extent to which 188 countries combat human trafficking and slavery. Each country is given a score of either Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3, based on the extent to which that country prevents human trafficking, protects the victims of human trafficking, and prosecutes perpetrators of human trafficking.
This year, 21 countries were downgraded on the list, while 27 countries were upgraded. Twenty-three nations were placed on the Tier 3 list, which indicates a lack of compliance with the bare minimum standards of prevention, protection, and prosecution. The 36 countries included on the Tier 1 list not only meet the minimum standards but are increasingly more effective in doing so.
The report was released with a significant press release featuring Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ivanka Trump, First Daughter and Advisor to the President. Such high-profile releases are an encouraging signal and ensure that these reports receive the attention they deserve in the United States and the international community.
Here are three things to know following the release of the report:
1. China was downgraded to Tier 3 status.
In 2014 and 2015, China was listed on the Tier 2 Watch List. A country can only remain on the watch list for two years before either being upgraded or downgraded. In 2016, China received a waiver to remain on the Watch List after submitting a national action plan that, if fully implemented, would have significantly contributed to efforts to eliminate human trafficking. This year, China joined countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, and North Korea on the Tier 3 list.
The report highlighted the fact that thousands of North Koreans are forced to work in Chinese labor camps, where their wages are sent to fund the Korean government. In drug rehabilitation centers, individuals are indefinitely detained without a proper trial. Law enforcement does not properly screen individuals arrested for prostitution to see if they are victims of human trafficking. Bribery and collusion continue amongst police and traffickers. Access to necessary rehabilitation services are limited based upon a victim’s location and gender. Finally, Chinese law does not fully criminalize prostitution of minors, and promotes definitions of human trafficking that vary with international law. Fortunately, the Trump administration has condemned the misconduct within China.
The demotion of China to Tier 3 is the Trump administration’s first major rebuke of Chinese human rights violations. Being labeled a Tier 3 country comes with real consequences that could affect China-U.S. relations for the next year. Non-humanitarian foreign aid may be limited. Chinese government officials may not receive funding for educational programs. And the U.S. may oppose China’s requests for assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. President Trump has the ability to waive these sanctions if he views they threaten United States’ interests, but the consequences looming for China are very real. This could become an issue in negotiations over finding solutions for the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program.
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