June 28, 2011
The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20521
Dear Secretary Clinton:
In light of the recent publication of the 2011 Trafficking In Persons Report, once again, Cuba ranks as a Tier 3 country. Cuba has been a Tier 3 country since 2003 as the regime continues to sexually exploit women, children, and oppresses the Cuban people. Due to the fact that the Cuban regime has not shown any progress regarding trafficking of persons, I would urge the administration, within all applicable rules and guidelines, to reverse its current policy and suspend all educational and cultural exchanges with the Cuban regime pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
According to U.S. law, “countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs.” Under the repressive Cuban regime, anyone who is involved in cultural and educational exchanges are direct employees of Raul and Fidel Castro. The tyrants use these exchanges as a political instrument to promote their communist agenda while maintaining absolute control over the daily lives of the Cuban people.
Last year, President Obama granted a partial waiver for Cuba to allow funding for educational and cultural exchanges. However, according to the 2011 report, the Cuban regime “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.” This report clearly illustrates the failure of the Obama administration’s partial waiver, particularly last year’s, to improve or enhance the lives of the Cuban people.
These exchanges only serve as a propaganda tool for the authoritative Castro brothers and do not help bring freedom and democracy to Cuba.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Full text of annual report on trafficking from the State Department:
OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
Trafficking in Persons Report 2011
[Introductory Material also available in Chinese | French | Russian | Spanish | Arabic | Persian]
Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
TIER 2 WATCH LIST
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND:
a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or
c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Full list of tier placements
CUBA (Tier 3)
Cuba is a source country for adults and some children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some Cuban medical professionals assigned to work abroad have claimed that their passports were retained as a means of keeping them in a state of exploitation, thus preventing them from traveling freely. Prostitution of children reportedly occurs in Cuba as prostitution is not criminalized for anyone above 16 years old. The scope of trafficking within Cuba is particularly difficult to gauge due to the closed nature of the government and sparse non-governmental or independent reporting.
The Government of Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not publicize information about government measures to address human trafficking through prosecution, protection, or prevention efforts during the reporting period.
Recommendations for Cuba: Investigate reports of involuntary labor of Cuban citizens; in partnership with trafficking victim specialists, ensure adults and children have access to specialized trafficking victim protection and assistance; take measures to ensure identified sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; and publicize measures to address human trafficking through prosecution, protection, or prevention efforts.
The Government of Cuba did not report discernible progress on investigating or prosecuting trafficking offenses or convicting and punishing trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Cuba appears to prohibit most forms of trafficking activity through various provisions of its penal code; however, the use of these provisions could not be verified, and prostitution of children over the age of 16 is legal, leaving children over 16 particularly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. The government did not share official data relating to Cuban investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking offenders, including any officials complicit in human trafficking, in 2010 or any other year. The government did not report any anti-trafficking training provided to officials.
The government did not publicize official data on protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did not report any procedures in place to guide officials in proactively identifying trafficking victims in vulnerable groups (such as people in prostitution) and referring them to available services. The government operates at least two well-regarded facilities for the treatment of children who have been sexually and physically abused. In addition, the government operates a nationwide network of shelters for victims of domestic violence or child abuse, but the government did not verify if trafficking victims received treatment in these centers. Adult victims reportedly reside in these shelters voluntarily. The government provided no evidence that it encouraged trafficking victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. The government did not report on the existence of any procedures to ensure identified trafficking victims were not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
To date, the government has made limited anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The government did not implement any known public awareness campaigns to prevent forced labor or forced prostitution. The government did not report the existence of an anti-trafficking task force, monitoring mechanism, or anti-trafficking action plan. Transparency was lacking in the government’s trafficking-related policies and activities; it did not report publicly on its efforts. The government made no known efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government has not reported identification of a child sex tourism problem involving its nationals or within Cuba. Cuba is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
THAILAND (Tier 2 Watch List)
Thailand is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Individuals from neighboring countries, as well as from further away such as Uzbekistan and Fiji, migrate to Thailand for reasons including to flee conditions of poverty. Migrants from Burma, who make up the bulk of migrants in Thailand, seek economic opportunity and escape from military repression. The majority of the trafficking victims identified within Thailand are migrants from Thailand’s neighboring countries who are forced, coerced, or defrauded into labor or commercial sexual exploitation; conservative estimates have this population numbering in the tens of thousands of victims. Trafficking victims within Thailand were found employed in maritime fishing, seafood processing, low-end garment production, and domestic work. Evidence suggests that the trafficking of men, women, and children in labor sectors such as commercial fisheries, fishing-related industries, and domestic work was a significant portion of all labor trafficking in Thailand.
UN-affiliated NGO research made available during the year reported a significant population of trafficking victims in the country. An estimated 23 percent of all Cambodians deported by Thai authorities at the Poipet border were trafficking victims. The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) estimated that Thai authorities deport over 23,000 Cambodian trafficking victims a year. Similarly, Lao authorities reported during the year that groups of 50 to 100 Lao trafficking victims were among the thousands of Lao nationals deported by Thai authorities. An assessment of the cumulative risk of labor trafficking among Burmese migrant workers in the seafood industry in Samut Sakhon, Thailand found that 57 percent of these workers experience conditions of forced labor. An IOM report released in May 2011 noted prevalent forced labor conditions, including debt bondage, among Cambodian and Burmese individuals recruited – some forcefully or through fraud – for work in the Thai fishing industry. According to the report, Burmese, Cambodian, and Thai men were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats that traveled throughout Southeast Asia and beyond, and who remained at sea for up to several years, did not receive pay, were forced to work 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, and were threatened and physically beaten. Similarly, an earlier UNIAP study found 29 of 49 (58 percent) surveyed migrant fishermen trafficked aboard Thai fishing boats had witnessed a fellow fishermen killed by boat captains in instances when they were too weak or sick to work. Fishermen typically did not have written employment contracts with their employer. Observers noted that traffickers (including labor brokers) who bring foreign victims into Thailand generally work as individuals or in unorganized groups, while those who enslave Thai victims abroad tend to be more organized. Informed observers also reported that labor brokers, some of whom facilitate or engage in trafficking, are of both Thai and foreign origin and work in networks, collaborating with employers and, at times, with law enforcement officials.
Migrants, ethnic minorities, and stateless people in Thailand are at a greater risk of being trafficked than Thai nationals, and experience withholding of travel documents, migrant registration cards, and work permits by employers. Undocumented migrants remain particularly vulnerable to trafficking, due to their economic status, education level, language barriers, and lack of knowledge of Thai law. The greatest risk factor for highland women and girls to being trafficked was their lack of citizenship. Some children from neighboring countries are forced to sell flowers, beg, or work in domestic service in urban areas. During the year, Vietnamese women were found to have been confined and forced to act as surrogate mothers after being recruited for work in Bangkok. Most Thai trafficking victims abroad who were repatriated back to Thailand during the year had been exploited in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, and China. Thai victims were also repatriated from Russia, South Africa, Yemen, Vietnam, the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), and Singapore. Thai nationals are also known to be trafficked to Australia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and Timor-Leste. Some Thai men who migrate for low-skilled contract work and agricultural labor are subjected to conditions of forced labor and debt bondage. Sex trafficking generally involves victims who are women and girls. Sex tourism continues to be a problem in Thailand, and this demand likely fuels trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Thailand is a transit country for victims from North Korea, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Burma destined for third countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Russia, Western Europe, South Korea, and the United States. There were reports that separatist groups recruited teenaged children to carry out attacks.
The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued implementation of its human trafficking law and conducted awareness-raising activities on human trafficking. The government continued work on its implementation of regulations that will allow trafficking victims to temporarily live and work within Thailand, though victims generally continue to be detained in government shelters. The Thai prime minister chaired meetings with labor and civil society organizations to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts, which led to the development of the Thai government’s second six-year National Policy Strategy on human trafficking for 2011-2016. In July 2010, the prime minister publicly acknowledged the need to improve the government’s weak interagency coordination in addressing human trafficking. The Thai government reported increases in trafficking prosecutions and convictions, but as of May 2011 there was insufficient data available to determine whether each of these could be categorized as human trafficking convictions. Despite these significant efforts, the government has not shown sufficient evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year, particularly in the areas of prosecuting and convicting both sex and labor trafficking offenders, combating trafficking complicity of public officials, and trafficking victim protection; therefore, Thailand is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. Given the significant scope and magnitude of trafficking in Thailand, there continued to be a low number of convictions for both sex and labor trafficking, and of victims identified among vulnerable populations. Direct involvement in and facilitation of human trafficking by law enforcement officials reportedly remained a significant problem in Thailand; authorities reported investigating two cases of complicity involving four officials, including at the police colonel level, though there were no convictions or sentences of complicit officials during the year. The government did not respond to multiple reports of widespread corruption involving the extortion and trafficking of Burmese deportees from Thailand. NGOs reported that problems hindering the government’s anti-trafficking efforts included local police corruption, biases against migrant laborers, the lack of a comprehensive monitoring system of the government’s efforts, lack of understanding among local officials of trafficking, the courts’ lack of a human rights-based approach to labor abuse cases, and systematic disincentives for trafficking victims to be identified. Authorities continued efforts to prevent human trafficking with assistance from international organizations and NGOs, but have not yet adequately addressed structural vulnerabilities to trafficking created by its migrant labor policies. The government should continue to increase its efforts given the significant scope and magnitude of trafficking in Thailand.
Recommendations for Thailand: Enhance ongoing efforts to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, in particular undocumented migrants and deportees; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict both sex and labor trafficking offenders; improve efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict officials engaged in trafficking-related corruption; ensure that offenders of fraudulent labor recruitment and of forced labor receive stringent criminal penalties; improve labor inspection standards and procedures to better detect workplace violations, including instances of trafficking; improve implementation of procedures to allow all adult trafficking victims to travel, work, and reside outside of shelters; provide legal alternatives to the removal of trafficking victims to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship; implement mechanisms to allow adult foreign trafficking victims to reside in Thailand; make greater efforts to educate migrant workers on their rights, their employers’ obligations to them, legal recourse available to victims of trafficking, and how to seek remedies against traffickers; improve efforts to regulate fees and brokers associated with the process to legalize migrant workers in order to reduce the vulnerability of migrants to human trafficking; and increase anti-trafficking awareness efforts directed at employers and clients of the sex trade.
The Thai government made mixed progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Thailand’s 2008 anti-trafficking law criminally prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties from four to 10 years’ imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave offenses, such as rape. The Thai government reported 18 convictions in trafficking-related cases in 2010 – an increase from eight known convictions during the previous year; as of May 2011, only five of the 18 convictions reported by the government could be confirmed to be for trafficking offenses. The government also reported initiating 79 prosecutions in 2010, up from 17 prosecutions during the previous year. The police reported investigating 70 trafficking-related cases in 2010, including at least 49 cases of forced prostitution and 11 for forced labor. This compares to the 95 trafficking-related investigations reported in 2009. Very few cross-border labor exploitation investigations led to arrests of alleged traffickers, and even those arrested rarely found themselves prosecuted in court. A study released during the year on the trafficking of fishermen in Thailand found that investigations of alleged human trafficking on Thai fishing boats, as well as inspections of these boats, were practically nonexistent, according to surveyed fisherman, NGOs, and government officials. The justice system remained slow in its handling of criminal cases, including trafficking cases. Additionally, frequent personnel changes hampered the government’s ability to make greater progress on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In December 2010, the police anti-trafficking unit, with assistance from NGOs, raided an apartment in Bangkok and removed 12 Uzbek trafficking victims, successfully identifying some of the victims; others who were likely also victims were returned to the streets or taken to Thai immigration for deportation, depending on their visa status. The alleged trafficker, an Uzbek woman, was initially jailed during a police investigation, but in February obtained bail and has reportedly resumed her involvement in Bangkok’s sex industry. In January 2011, a senior police anti-trafficking officer involved in the investigation of the Uzbek trafficking ring, along with two subordinates, were placed on temporary suspension for allegations of corrupt practices.
The Court of Justice reported that the number of cases it adjudicated involving violations of the 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act has gradually increased since the law came into force. Sentences for convicted offenders in confirmed trafficking cases ranged from four to 20 years’ imprisonment. In December, a Thai court convicted three defendants in the 2006 Ranya Paew case involving forced labor of Burmese workers in a shrimp processing factory and sentenced them each to 20 years in prison, the maximum penalty under the relevant Thai law; the offenders remain released pending the results of their appeal. In October, a Thai court sentenced a Thai woman to four years’ imprisonment for operating a fraudulent employment agency involved in the trafficking of Thai workers abroad. Media outlets highlighted several arrests in sex trafficking cases. Thai law enforcement authorities cooperated with counterparts from around the world, leading to arrests and convictions of traffickers. Some observers believe that more needs to be done to arrest traffickers within Thailand through cross-border investigations.
Corruption remained widespread among Thai law enforcement personnel, creating an enabling environment for human trafficking to prosper. Allegations of trafficking-related corruption persisted during the year, including in cases of forced prostitution and forced labor of migrants. There were credible reports that officials protected brothels, other commercial sex venues, and seafood and sweatshop facilities from raids and inspections. In addition to well-known corruption of local-level police officers, there were also protective relationships between central-level specialist police officers and the trafficking hot-spot regions to which they were assigned. There was no information indicating tolerance for trafficking at an institutional level. The Department of Special Investigations reported investigating four policemen, undertaking some disciplinary action, for trafficking-related complicity during the year; these investigations were ongoing. The government did not respond to reports that Thai officials were involved in the trafficking of Burmese men, women, and children deported to the hands of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). Authorities also have not responded to reports that Thai police and immigration officials extort money or sex from Burmese citizens detained in Thailand for immigration violations, and sell Burmese unable to pay to labor brokers and sex traffickers. The government continued efforts to train thousands of police, labor, prosecutors, social workers, and immigration officials on victim identification.
The Thai government demonstrated limited efforts to identify and protect foreign and Thai victims of trafficking during the year. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) reported that 381 foreign victims were classified as trafficking victims in Thailand and received assistance at government shelters during the year, a decrease from the 530 foreign victims assisted in 2009. More than half of the victims assisted during the year were from Laos, and one fourth from Burma. The government continued to repatriate foreign victims of trafficking, including through regular coordination with Lao and Burmese authorities. MSDHS reported that in 2010, 88 Thai nationals were classified as trafficking victims abroad and were repatriated to Thailand with assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the UAE, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, China, Russia, South Africa, Yemen, Vietnam, the U.S., the UK, and Singapore. This represented a significant decrease from the 309 Thai trafficking victims repatriated from abroad in 2009. The government reported increasing efforts to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations through screening checkpoints at airports and border crossings. However, given the reportedly significant population of trafficking victims in Thailand out of which only 52 trafficking victims were reported identified in immigration detention centers, the government should continue to improve these efforts.
The government provided limited incentives for victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. The Thai government continued to refer victims to one of nine regional shelters run by MSDHS, where they receive counseling, limited legal assistance, and medical care. Foreign adult victims of trafficking identified by authorities continued to be detained in government shelters and typically cannot opt to reside outside of a shelter or leave before Thai authorities are prepared to repatriate them. The 2008 law contains a provision for granting foreign victims the right to seek employment while awaiting conclusion of legal processes, and the Thai government passed a new regulation in May 2011 to implement this provision. The government passed new regulations that will allow foreign victims to temporarily live and work within Thailand. As a result of this detention practice, foreign victims of trafficking are not afforded the same opportunities as other foreign nationals who seek and receive permission to work in Thailand. There were regular reports during the year of foreign trafficking victims who fled shelters, likely due to slow legal and repatriation processes, the inability to earn income during trial proceedings, language barriers, and distrust of government officials. There were reported instances in which victims opted not to seek designation as trafficking victims due to systemic disincentives, such as long stays in shelters during lengthy repatriation and court processes. NGOs reported that some individuals were trained by labor brokers on how to lie to government officials to prevent being identified as victims. Thai law protects victims from being prosecuted for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. However, some victims were likely punished due to the lack of effective victim identification procedures and authorities’ efforts to arrest and deport immigration violators.
The government generally encourages victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking, though some victims opt not to do so. There was no evidence during the reporting period that the government offered legal aid to encourage workers to avail themselves of the opportunity to obtain compensatory damages from employers in cases of forced labor. High legal costs, language, bureaucratic, and immigration barriers, fear of retribution by traffickers, distrust of Thai officials, slow legal processes, and the financial needs of victims effectively prevented most victims from participating in the Thai legal process. While in the past, authorities have assisted trafficking victims receive financial compensation from their trafficking offenders in a few cases, there were no such reported cases during the year. The lack of labor law coverage for fishermen in Thailand under the Labor Protection Act of 1998 makes this population particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Despite a 2005 cabinet resolution that established that foreign trafficking victims in Thailand who are stateless residents can be given residency status on a case-by-case basis, the Thai government has yet to report granting residency status to a foreign trafficking victim.
The Thai government made notable efforts to prevent human trafficking, including through collaboration with international organizations and NGOs. Some prevention efforts included the involvement of the prime minister and members of his cabinet. While some activities aimed to raise awareness on trafficking within Thai society as a whole, others attempted to raise awareness among targeted high-risk industries. The government reported that throughout 2010 and early 2011, it reached more than 3,000 people from high-risk groups to raise awareness on trafficking, as well as approximately 2,000 employers to raise awareness on labor rights and trafficking. NGOs noted that awareness of human trafficking and labor rights grew, both among high-risk populations and government officials. The government made increased efforts to educate migrant workers on their rights and their employers’ obligations to them. The government’s Nationality Verification and Granting an Amnesty to Remain in the Kingdom of Thailand to Alien Workers Program offered inadequate legal rights to Burmese and other migrant workers and bound their immigration status to Thai employers, effectively leaving workers without legal recourse or protection from forced labor. Observers remained concerned that the process to legalize migrant workers with its associated fees, as well as costs imposed by poorly regulated and unlicensed labor brokers, increased the vulnerability of migrant workers to trafficking and debt bondage. In some cases, workers reportedly incurred debts imposed by their employers amounting to one year’s wages for the required processing of their registration. During the past year, the government worked with the Government of Burma to open a Burmese government office in Thailand, reducing the need for some undocumented Burmese workers to return to Burma, and thus making them less at risk to being exploited. The government in 2010 announced plans to collect additional funds from migrant workers undergoing nationality verification in order to underwrite the cost of deporting undocumented migrants; if enacted, this could further increase workers’ debt. In October 2010, the prime minister announced the creation of a “Centre to Suppress, Arrest and Prosecute Alien Workers Working Underground and Human Trafficking Processes.” Authorities reported partnering with NGOs and international organizations that fund interpreters to assist the government in responding to foreign language queries reposted to the hotline that receives calls regarding trafficking cases; however, the government’s decentralized call system made it difficult to ensure that localities systematically and adequately responded to calls that were diverted to them - particularly calls that came in from non-Thai callers. The government reportedly disbursed $200,000 from its fund to assist trafficking victims and finance anti-trafficking activities - only a small portion of the government’s overall fund to assist trafficking victims. In April 2010, the Thai government published its own report on the trafficking situation, its efforts to address it, trafficking statistical data, and recommendations on how to improve its operations. The government reported random interviews with Thai migrants at overland border-crossing checkpoints prevented 171 potential victims of trafficking or other exploitation from traveling. Authorities also reported “labor checkpoints” at international airports through which the Labor Ministry works with immigration authorities to randomly interview travelers who may be potential trafficking victims, though the government did not report identifying any potential or confirmed trafficking cases through these efforts. The government conducted awareness-raising campaigns targeting tourists’ demand for child sex tourism, but did not make any other efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sexual acts or forced labor. Thailand is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (Tier 1)
The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, document servitude, and sex trafficking. Trafficking occurs for commercial sexual exploitation in street prostitution, massage parlors, and brothels, and for labor in domestic service, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, hospitality industries, construction, health and elder care, and strip club dancing. Vulnerabilities are increasingly found in visa programs for legally documented students and temporary workers who typically fill labor needs in the hospitality, landscaping, construction, food service, and agricultural industries. There are allegations of domestic workers, foreign nationals on A-3 and G-5 visas, subjected to forced labor by foreign diplomatic or consular personnel posted to the United States. Combined federal and state human trafficking information indicates more sex trafficking than labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions, but law enforcement identified a comparatively higher number of labor trafficking victims as such cases uncovered recently have involved more victims. U.S. citizen victims, both adults and children, are predominantly found in sex trafficking; U.S. citizen child victims are often runaways, troubled, and homeless youth. Foreign victims are more often found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking. In 2010, the number of female foreign victims of labor trafficking served through victim services programs increased compared with 2009. The top countries of origin for foreign victims in FY 2010 were Thailand, India, Mexico, Philippines, Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic.
The U.S. government fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government sustained strong federal law enforcement efforts, strengthening support for federal task forces and initiating efforts to improve coordination and proactively identify cases. The government continued to provide funding to NGOs for services to victims and identified an increased number of victims. Immigration relief, which may lead to residency and eventual citizenship, is offered to qualified victims and immediate family members. The government sustained its prevention efforts, continuing to examine federal procurement and specific visa categories for vulnerabilities as well as to undertake public awareness efforts. The U.S. government annually reports on its activities to combat human trafficking in a report compiled by the Department of Justice available at www.justice.gov/ag/publications.htm including detailed information on funding and suggestions for improved performance.
Recommendations for the United States: Improve data collection on human trafficking cases at the federal, state and local levels; continue federal partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to encourage training, protocols, and dedicated and incentivized personnel at the state and local level; train field reporting collectors to recognize and report on human trafficking; mandate training in the detection of human trafficking for Department of Labor and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigators; increase the incorporation of anti-trafficking efforts into existing structures such as labor, child protection, education, housing, victim services, immigration courts, runaway/homeless youth, and juvenile justice programs; provide victim identification training for immigration detention and removal officers and conduct screening in immigration detention centers; increase funding for victim services, including legal services; offer comprehensive services to identified, eligible victims regardless of type of immigration relief sought, if any; increase training for consular officers to reduce vulnerabilities in visa programs; examine guestworker programs to reduce vulnerabilities; conduct briefings for domestic workers of foreign diplomats to ensure that they know their rights; improve oversight and enforcement of employment-based visas to forestall vulnerability and abuse; increase cooperation between the private and public sectors to encourage business practices that rid supply chains of human trafficking; and expand anti-trafficking outreach, services, and training in the insular areas.
The U.S. government demonstrated significant and sustained progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts through 2010. The United States prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through criminal statutes that were enacted almost 150 years ago in the wake of the U.S. Civil War to effectuate the Constitutional prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude. These statutes were updated and modernized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and subsequent legislation. Enforcement of the involuntary servitude and slavery efforts has since been carried out under the umbrella term “trafficking in persons.” U.S. law prohibits peonage, involuntary servitude, forced labor, sex trafficking, and servitude as well as confiscation or withholding of documents, such as passports. U.S. criminal law also prohibits conspiracy and attempt to violate these provisions, as well as obstructing enforcement of these provisions. Sex trafficking prosecutions involving minors do not require a showing of force, fraud, or coercion. Additional federal laws can also be utilized in trafficking prosecutions and traffickers may be convicted under those statutes instead of specific trafficking offenses.
Penalties prescribed under these statutes range from five to 20 years’ imprisonment for peonage, involuntary servitude, forced labor, and domestic servitude, and up to life imprisonment for aggravating circumstances. Penalties for sex trafficking range up to life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for sex trafficking of minors and 15 years for sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion or sex trafficking of minors under age 14. There is also a five-year maximum penalty for the related offense of fraud in foreign labor contracting under a related statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1351, which can be used in trafficking prosecutions. Under federal law, those who financially benefit through participation in a trafficking venture with knowledge or in reckless disregard of the trafficking conduct are subject to sentences equivalent to the underlying trafficking statutes. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed under U.S. law for other serious offenses, such as rape, kidnapping, or if death results from the trafficking situation.
Federal trafficking offenses are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The federal government tracks its activities by Fiscal Year (FY) which runs from October 1 through September 30. In FY 2010, collectively federal law enforcement charged 181 individuals, and obtained 141 convictions in 103 human trafficking prosecutions (32 labor trafficking and 71 sex trafficking). These numbers do not reflect prosecutions of cases involving the commercial sexual exploitation of children that were brought under statutes other than the TVPA’s sex trafficking provision. This represents the largest number of federal human trafficking prosecutions initiated in a single year, including large-scale, complex cases. In FY 2010, the average prison sentence imposed for federal trafficking crimes was 11.8 years and prison terms imposed ranged from three months to 54 years. In the past year, notable federal prosecutions included the longest sentence returned in a single-victim forced labor case - a 20-year sentence for holding a woman in domestic servitude for eight years; the initiation of the largest trafficking case to date involving the exploitation of over 600 Thai agricultural workers which is pending trial; multiple cases involving the systematic nonviolent coercion of groups of documented guestworkers; a life sentence in a sex trafficking case; convictions of 10 defendants in a multinational organized criminal conspiracy that exploited guestworkers in 14 states; and a bilateral enforcement initiative with Mexico resulting in indictments of sex trafficking networks under both U.S. and Mexican law.
Traffickers were also prosecuted under a myriad of state laws, but no comprehensive data is available on state prosecutions and convictions. All 50 states prohibit the prostitution of minors under state and local laws that predate the enactment of the TVPA. By the end of the reporting period, forty-five states had enacted specific anti-trafficking statutes using varying definitions and a range of penalties. Over the last decade, human trafficking cases under state statutes were initiated in 18 states. The majority of state cases involved child sex trafficking; at least three states used their state statutes for forced labor prosecutions. State laws are enforced by approximately 16,000 local, county and state agencies. While state prosecutions continue to increase, one study found that less than 10 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies surveyed had protocols or policies on human trafficking, and recommended augmented training, standard operational protocols, and dedicated personnel within police agencies.
The lack of uniform nationwide data collection remained an impediment to compiling fully accurate statistics. Activities were undertaken during the reporting period to address this issue, but differing data systems used by the diverse array of enforcement agencies now partnering on human trafficking issues remain difficult to integrate. Amendments to the TVPA in 2008 tasked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to incorporate human trafficking offenses in the annual statistics collected from police forces nationwide; development of technology to implement this mandate was underway during the reporting period and it is expected that collection will begin in early 2013. The Department of Defense (DoD) undertook a similar effort to amend its criminal data systems, but did not collect information during the reporting period. As part of their responsibilities under their federal grants, 39 task forces reported 750 investigations during the reporting period, although it is unknown how many were state versus federal investigations, how many convictions resulted, or to what extent the data included investigations that required stabilization of potential victims but that did not ultimately culminate in the official identification of victims under the TVPA.
DOJ continued to fund 39 anti-trafficking task forces nationwide, each comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement investigators and prosecutors, labor enforcement, and a nongovernmental victim service provider. DOJ implemented a number of new measures to address critiques that state law enforcement participation mainly continued pre-existing programs to combat commercial vice and that the success of the task forces had varied widely. To further develop best practices, DOJ funded three Enhanced Collaboration Model Task Forces in Illinois, California, and Texas, in which state and federal law enforcement agencies and service providers addressed sex and labor trafficking whether victims were citizen or noncitizen, adult or child. DOJ, in cooperation with the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, also announced the creation of Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams to bring together federal investigators and prosecutors to develop and implement coordinated, proactive federal interagency investigations and prosecutions in select areas nationwide. The Department of State announced the creation of a dedicated anti-trafficking unit within the headquarters staff of the Diplomatic Security Service.
Efforts continued to incorporate civil enforcement in the anti-trafficking response. The Department of Labor (DOL) carries out civil law enforcement in the nation’s workplaces and its field investigators are often the first government authorities to detect exploitative labor practices; the investigators then coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to ensure restitution on behalf of trafficking victims. DOL investigators have not yet been funded, trained, or given the mandate to focus on human trafficking cases and did not receive mandatory trafficking-specific training during the reporting period. Anti-trafficking activities have not been funded or disseminated to labor and employment agencies within state and territorial governments. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigates discrimination charges against employers, held a public hearing devoted to human trafficking, taking testimony on identification and remediation of trafficking cases and identifying possible future actions. DOJ began partnering with the EEOC to strengthen referrals and protocols and to develop victim identification training for EEOC attorneys and investigators. During the reporting period, the EEOC completed two investigations and filed civil actions against the alleged traffickers; two other investigations were ongoing at the close of the reporting period.
There were no reports of official complicity in human trafficking during the reporting period.
The U.S. government undertook considerable law enforcement training efforts during the reporting period. In collaboration with NGOs, DOJ launched an online task force resource guide, and conducted a national training for 700 task force members and law enforcement, governmental, and nongovernmental partners, which included advanced training to identify, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking cases and assist human trafficking victims. The national training conference was followed by a series of regional conferences to build upon the exchanges of expertise at the national conference. The DOJ task forces trained over 24,278 law enforcement officers and other persons likely to come into contact with human trafficking victims. The FBI provided comprehensive anti-trafficking training to over 1,000 new agents and support personnel and specialized training for agents assigned to the FBI Civil Rights squads in field offices around the country as well as training 960 state and local law enforcement officers. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided advanced training to 72 veteran U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents and overview training to all agents attending the ICE Training Academy, and updated mandatory training for more than 40,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents. DHS launched web-based training and continued in-person trainings that reached more than 14,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials during the reporting period. Information about services for human trafficking victims is included in the training offered to participating agencies in cooperative agreements following section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes state and local law enforcement agencies to carry out enforcement of certain immigration authorities related to the investigation, apprehension, and detention of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. NGOs reported instances in which noncitizen trafficking victims in 287(g) locations were fearful to report crimes. DoD continued mandatory training to its law enforcement personnel on identification, investigation, and information sharing with civilian and host nation law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. government demonstrated sustained protection efforts, increased numbers of victims assisted, and continued efforts to address challenges to increase identification and service provision. The U.S. government has formal procedures to guide officials in victim identification and referrals to victim services provided by NGOs, and funds an NGO-operated national hotline and referral service.
The U.S. government and its federally funded trafficking victim service providers encouraged foreign national and U.S. citizen victims to assist with investigations and prosecutions. The TVPA provides two principal types of immigration relief to foreign trafficking victims: 1) continued presence, which allows temporary immigration relief and may allow work authorization for victims who are also potential witnesses in an investigation or prosecution; and 2) T nonimmigrant status or “T visas,” which allow for legal immigration status for up to four years for victims who cooperate with reasonable law enforcement requests for assistance with an investigation or prosecution. Testimony against the trafficker, conviction of the trafficker, or formal denunciation of the trafficker is not required, nor is sponsorship or approval by an investigating agency. Victims may also apply for T visas on behalf of certain family members, including spouses and unmarried children under 21, parents and minor unmarried siblings of victims under 21, and parents and minor unmarried siblings of victims 21 and over if the relative faces danger as a result of the victim’s escape from the trafficker or cooperation with law enforcement. T visa holders and their family members are authorized to work and after three years are then eligible for permanent residence status and eventual citizenship.
Also available is U nonimmigrant status or a “U visa,” which allows for legal immigration status for up to four years for victims of certain crimes, including trafficking, who cooperate or are willing to cooperate with reasonable law enforcement requests in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity. An arrest, prosecution, or conviction is not required. Victims may also apply for U visas on behalf of certain family members, including spouses and minor children, and parents and minor siblings of victims under 21. U visa holders and their family members are authorized to work, and after three years are then eligible for permanent residence status and eventual citizenship.
In FY 2010, continued presence was issued to 186 potential victim-witnesses, a decrease from 299 last year. T visas were granted to 447 victims and 349 immediate family members of victims, representing an increase from 313 and 273, respectively, last year. Five hundred and eighteen T visa holders, including 309 victims and 209 family members, became lawful permanent residents in FY 2010, which puts them on a path to obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Unlike T visas, the number of U visas granted to trafficking victims is not tracked.
Foreign nationals in the United States without a lawful immigration status generally are not eligible for federal public benefits such as food assistance and health care programs; there are exceptions, including services provided by homeless shelters and emergency medical assistance. When continued presence is granted or a potential victim has made a bona fide application for a T visa, HHS can issue a certification letter. That enables the victim to receive public benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee, which includes targeted assistance with income, health care, and employment searches as well as access to all assistance programs available to citizens. In FY 2010, 449 such certifications were issued to foreign adults and 92 eligibility letters were issued to foreign children, an increase from 330 for adults and 50 for children in FY 2009. Certified victims came from 47 countries. Primary countries of origin for foreign victims were Thailand, India, Mexico, Honduras, Philippines, Haiti, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. Fifty-five percent of foreign adult victims were labor trafficking victims, of which 70 percent were men and 30 percent were women; 12 percent were adult sex trafficking victims, all of whom were women; and 10 percent were victims of both sex and labor trafficking. Sixty-two percent of foreign child victims were labor trafficking victims, of which half were boys and half were girls; 29 percent were sex trafficking victims, of which 30 percent were boys; and nine percent were victims of both labor and sex trafficking.
From July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, DOJ and HHS provided trafficking victim assistance funding to NGOs that served at least 1,472 potential victims (foreign nationals and citizens), more than double the number served in 2009; the exact number is unknown because some victims were assisted with funding from both agencies but an unduplicated count is not available. Adult victims who were citizens, including Native Americans, are not included in the number of victims served. In 2010, DOJ released a new funding opportunity that includes a focus on adult U.S. citizen victims that can also serve Native Americans. DOJ took steps to gauge the need and the type of culturally competent services required to assist trafficked Native Americans with the hope that a pilot project can be developed in the future, and provided specialized training to law enforcement and service providers in jurisdictions serving Native American communities.
Federally funded victim assistance included services coordination and referrals, medical care, dental care, mental health treatment, sustenance and shelter, translation and interpretation, immigration and legal assistance, and transportation. In FY 2010, DOJ provided grant funding to 34 NGO service providers to assist foreign nationals and six to assist U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident victims, and HHS provided funding for services that were delivered by more than 100 NGO service providers.
DOJ used an increase in victim services funding to create the Enhanced Collaborative Model Task Forces, with half of the funding applicable for services. The other half supported law enforcement investigations and coordination aimed at identifying victims. As increasing numbers of victims have been identified and assisted, HHS has directed an increasing percentage of available funding toward services for victims, their family members, and potential victims. The NGO contractor of the HHS services program reports having contributed non-government funds to support this effort.
Under the HHS services program, there is a maximum reimbursement amount allowed per month for each victim and a maximum number of months during which a victim may be assisted, with some exceptions allowed. NGOs reported cases in which the limits have been reached and they are no longer providing services to the victim before a case came to trial. However, once a victim is certified by HHS or, in the case of a minor, receives an eligibility letter from HHS, that individual is eligible for services, including income supports, health care, and social services, through the provider network that assists refugees resettle in the United States. While legal services are often crucial to access civil and immigration remedies and undertake the advocacy necessary to navigate the complex federal system of benefits and the justice system, the HHS services program does not allow reimbursement for immigration legal assistance. In 2010, DOJ extended its program to offer this assistance. Should a foreign national victim decide not to report the crime or comply with reasonable law enforcement requests, DOJ and HHS funded services must in most cases be terminated; approval for continuation on a case-by-case basis is sometimes granted, and the law provides an exception to the cooperation requirement where physical or psychological trauma renders a victim unable to participate in an investigation or prosecution. Services under the HHS services program must be discontinued if an adult victim pursues long-term immigration relief other than the T visa.
NGOs reported isolated incidents of officers citing victims risking withdrawal of benefits when faced with reluctant victims; NGOs also reported continued challenges in getting law enforcement to recognize reluctant victims for protection purposes. Law enforcement continued to face challenges in identifying child victims of sex trafficking, particularly because the victims are often provided false identification by their traffickers and at least initially self-identified as adults. There was no targeted federal funding to support state child welfare agencies’ anti-trafficking efforts. In some states, state child welfare agencies’ missions did not formally extend to human trafficking, focusing instead on children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by caretakers and have not been expanded to reflect the anti-trafficking policy developments of the last decade. NGOs reported that these programs generally did not assist children over 14 years of age. State and local law enforcement, in some jurisdictions, was hampered by a lack of mandates, protocols, and training to identify and respond to child trafficking victims. The challenge of incorporating modern anti-trafficking concepts into these existing institutions has resulted in misidentification and referrals to juvenile justice or immigration systems rather than protective services. During the reporting period, the states of Illinois, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, and Florida created new procedures to increase identification or conducted initiatives to train child protection workers on human trafficking.
When an unaccompanied child (UAC) comes to the attention of federal authorities, those children are usually put into the care and custody of HHS, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS). DUCS screens UACs to identify potential victims of trafficking. UACs who may be trafficking victims are referred to the ORR Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATIP) for an eligibility determination. If the UAC is found to be a trafficking victim by ORR/ATIP, they are eligible for federal long-term foster care through the same program that cares for unaccompanied refugee minors who come to the United States. UACs who are not determined to be victims of trafficking by ORR/ATIP remain in the ORR/DUCS program until they reunify with a sponsor in the United States, age-out of care, return to their home country, or adjust their legal immigration status. Children may also be referred directly to ORR/ATIP for assistance without being placed in the ORR/DUCS program. Sometimes service providers believe a child may be a trafficking victim but HHS cannot substantiate the claim.
A study of UACs in immigration proceedings, a population vulnerable to trafficking, indicated a substantial gap between the number of children service providers identified as victims and the number of children who received federal benefits. For those unaccompanied children who may be trafficking victims and in deportation proceedings, the 2008 amendment of the TVPA allows for procedural protections such as access to counsel and child advocates. HHS funds projects to coordinate pro bono legal assistance and child advocates. Funding of direct counsel is not permitted, and not all of these children are matched with a pro bono attorney that is willing to volunteer their time to represent the child. In practice, child advocates are not always provided for these children as child advocate programs are only available in few areas due to funding constraints.
While federal, state and local grant programs exist for vulnerable children, including those who are on the streets, NGOs reported that identified child trafficking victims faced difficulties accessing needed services. HHS-funded short-term shelter programs served 44,000 homeless and runaway youth and more than 800,000 youth received contact from an HHS-funded street outreach worker, but these programs require training and specialized services to be able to identify and assist child trafficking victims. HHS conducted training for runaway and homeless youth services in an effort to fill this gap. Additionally, the executive branch proposed additional funding for training within the runaway and homeless youth system to identify, prevent and address sex trafficking of minors. DOJ continued grants for services coordination, technical assistance, and comprehensive services to U.S. citizen child victims of both sex and labor trafficking; 45 citizen child victims received services through this program.
In 2010, the United States’ Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification Program for Victims of Trafficking reunited 165 family members with trafficked persons in the United States and assisted three victims in returning to their country of origin. In September, 2010, due to lack of funding, the program was suspended; approximately 89 individuals are on a waiting list for assistance, unable to reunify with their family members in the United States.
While the TVPA sets forth a federal victim protection framework and principles that covers victims in all 50 states and territories, such protections were not also codified in most state laws. Nine of 50 states, as well as Washington, DC, offered state-funded public benefits to trafficking victims; 18 permitted victims to bring civil lawsuits; seven encouraged law enforcement to provide supporting documentation for T visa applications; 21 instituted mandatory restitution; and nine required that victims’ names and/or locations be kept confidential. DOJ took positive steps to eliminate barriers, educate administrators, and encourage the states to use the federal Crime Victims Fund to fund mainstream crime victim service providers to assist trafficking victims.
The TVPA provides that victims should not be inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. NGOs reported identifying increased numbers of potential victims in deportation proceedings and immigration detention. The prostitution of children has traditionally been handled by some state governments as a vice crime or a juvenile justice issue, and the anti-trafficking approach of the TVPA has been slow to fully permeate the state juvenile justice system. DOJ made efforts to engage state juvenile justice professionals in order to increase identification of minor trafficking victims and has trained state prosecutors. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, 235 males and 844 females under 18 years of age were reported to the FBI as having been arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice, an increase from 206 males and 643 females in 2008. Jurisdictions continued to formulate varying responses to help decrease arrests and view trafficked persons as victims; several states passed laws decriminalizing children found in prostitution, diverting arrested children into shelters and services, or allowing prostitution convictions to be expunged.
DHS hired six additional Victim Assistance Specialists nationwide, bringing the total to 18 human trafficking specialists and 250 generalists who are trained on the issue. All asylum field offices conducted training on identifying trafficking victims in the context of affirmative asylum adjudications, and this training is required for all incoming asylum officers. CBP has mandatory training and protocols in place to screen unaccompanied children for trafficking victimization. A study reported that the screenings are not effective because they are not conducted in a child appropriate manner by child welfare specialists in appropriate facilities. As in the last reporting period, detention and removal officers did not receive training on victim identification and did not conduct screenings in immigration detention centers. HHS conducted online trainings on identification, outreach and services and the HHS hotline center conducted general awareness and identification trainings nationwide. The Department of Education increased efforts to provide educational resources to school districts to help them prevent, identify and respond to human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, training chiefs of school police forces and surveying school districts for promising practices that can be disseminated nationwide. States have not yet created programs to increase awareness or identification within schools.
The U.S. government made significant progress on addressing prevention throughout the reporting period, continuing efforts to ensure government procurement is free from forced labor, examine visa categories for vulnerabilities, and conduct public awareness activities. The Cabinet-level President’s Interagency Task Force (PITF) is statutorily directed to coordinate federal efforts to combat trafficking in persons. The Senior Policy Operating Group, which meets quarterly and consists of senior officials designated as representatives by PITF members, coordinates interagency policy, grants, research, and planning issues involving international trafficking and the implementation of the TVPA.
The U.S. government undertook multiple efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor. The Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and State completed recommendations to Congress on how to reduce the likelihood that imported agricultural products and commodities are produced with the use of forced labor and child labor. The Departments of State and Defense were part of a multi-stakeholder process that led to 60 private security companies signing on to an International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. These companies pledged to uphold a number of principles in their company policies and in the conduct of their personnel, including not engaging in human trafficking, sexual exploitation, or prostitution. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a code of conduct that prohibits USAID contractors, subcontractors, grantees, and sub-grantees during the period of performance of their contracts or awards from engaging in trafficking in persons, procuring commercial sex acts, or using forced labor. DOL published an updated list of 128 goods from 70 countries that DOL had reason to believe were produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards, and released the ninth annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor and a revised list of products produced by forced or indentured child labor. DHS continued to enforce the prohibition against importing such products under the relevant statute, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. New legislation was proposed but not passed to increase enforcement capabilities in this area. DoD continued its demand reduction campaign to help make contractors, government personnel, and military members aware of common signs of human trafficking and hotline numbers to report suspected incidents. Enforcement of the zero-tolerance policy involved two service members who were punished for prostitution offenses, which included withholding promotions, reducing grades, levying fines, and restricting movement to the base.
State and local jurisdictions also engaged in a number of efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex. Some jurisdictions tested various combinations of arrests, shaming, and education of apprehended purchasers of prostitution. NGOs devoted to ending demand for commercial sex developed school curricula, conducted outreach campaigns, and worked with law enforcement. Reports continued to reflect significant numbers of arrests for commercial sexual activity. Data continued to reflect the arrests of more women than men for such activity; state and local law enforcement arrested 38,593 women versus 16,968 men for prostitution offenses and commercialized vice in 2009, the year for which the most recent data is available.
Allegations against federal contractors engaged in commercial sex and labor exploitation continued to surface in the media. During the reporting period, allegations were investigated and one employee was dismissed by a DoD contractor. The Inspectors General at the Departments of State and Defense and USAID continued their audits of federal contracts to monitor vulnerability to human trafficking and issued public reports of their findings and reparations. USAID also created an entity dedicated to proactively tracking contractor compliance with the authority to suspend contracts and debar contracting firms, a positive step toward increasing enforcement in this area. No prosecutions occurred and no contracts were terminated.
The U.S. government continued prevention efforts within its temporary worker and student programs. The A-3 and G-5 visa categories allow persons to enter the United States as domestic workers of foreign diplomatic or consular personnel (“foreign mission personnel”) or foreign employees of international organizations. The Department of State continued its ongoing work to help protect these visa holders, including implementing a system to track the visa application process of A-3 and G-5 visa holders, to require their payment into bank accounts, and to track allegations of abuse. During the reporting period, there were more than a dozen allegations of various forms of abuse and domestic servitude, including civil lawsuits against, and criminal investigations of, foreign mission personnel. The Department of State put procedures in place to closely review and, where appropriate, to deny A-3 and G-5 visas for workers of foreign mission personnel in the United States against whom serious allegations of abuse had been lodged. Under U.S. law, a foreign mission will lose the ability to sponsor additional domestic workers if the Secretary determines that there is credible evidence that a domestic worker was abused and that the mission tolerated the abuse; no suspensions occurred within the reporting period. However, the threat of suspension has been effective in alerting missions to the importance the Department places on the treatment of domestic workers and the need for missions to ensure that domestic workers are treated in accordance with Department guidance. The Department also issued new guidelines on prevailing wages for domestic workers employed by foreign mission personnel, including a prohibition against lodging deductions for live-in workers, and capping the percentage of salary that can be assessed for three meals per day at 20 percent. A-3 and G-5 visa holders who filed civil lawsuits against their former employers were eligible for temporary immigration relief and work authorization.
DOJ and DHS led several investigations and prosecutions for trafficking of temporary agricultural workers on H-2A visas and temporary hospitality, food service, and construction workers on H-2B visas. Employers who have committed certain violations of the temporary worker programs may be barred from filing future applications for a three-year period; five H-2B employers – the first ever – and three H-2A employers were barred during the reporting period, for a total of eight debarred employers. A DOL regulation came into effect during the reporting period that strengthened protections for agricultural guestworkers by prohibiting foreign recruiters from charging workers certain fees. Reports indicate that recruiters adjusted their practices by charging fees after the workers had obtained their visas and levying charges under the guise of “service fees,” which are permitted under the regulation; indebtedness prior to arrival in the United States is a common mechanism of making victims vulnerable to control and compelled work. Recruiters discouraged former workers from reporting labor violations, claiming that U.S. embassies or consulates would not grant future visas for those who complain – assertions that are false and contrary to U.S. law. Workers also feared seeking assistance because of blacklisting and other retaliation against workers who complain about their conditions. The new regulation addresses these issues by imposing on employers an affirmative obligation against retaliation, the failure of which can result in removal from program participation.
During the reporting period, the Department of State received a significant increase in the number of complaints regarding the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, which provides foreign students an opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university. Complaints were reported from foreign governments, program participants, their families, concerned American citizens, the media, law enforcement agencies, other federal and local agencies, and the Congress. These included reports of fraudulent job offers, inappropriate jobs, job cancellations on arrival, insufficient number of work hours, and housing and transportation problems. To minimize the risk that J-1 Summer Work Travel program participants may become victims of crime, the Department adopted new program-wide regulations and undertook a pilot program requiring verified employment prior to arrival in the United States, prohibiting the use of third party staffing agencies, and enhanced oversight by the Department of State.
The U.S. government continued measures to inform and educate the public, including potential victims, about the causes and consequences of human trafficking. HHS distributed public multi-lingual awareness materials, including brochures, fact sheets and posters, as part of an extensive nationwide campaign that began in 2004 and funded an NGO to operate a national hotline. In FY 2010, the hotline received a total of 11,381 phone calls, an increase of more than 4,000 from the previous year. The hotline received a broad range of calls, from information requests and wage disputes to exploitation and abuse. Of all legally documented foreign nationals, the national human trafficking hotline received the highest number of calls from J-1, H-2A, H-2B, A-3 and G-5 visa holders. HHS also funded 18 projects to conduct outreach, public awareness, and identification efforts. Embassies and consulates worldwide continued distribution of a “know your rights” pamphlet and oral briefings for approved student or work-based visa applicants – efforts which resulted in 624 calls to the national hotline in FY 2010. DHS launched the “Blue Campaign,” an initiative to coordinate and enhance the Department’s anti-human trafficking activities. International and domestic awareness campaigns included multi-lingual television and radio announcements, billboards, newspaper advertisements, victim assistance materials, and indicator cards for law enforcement. DHS also expanded online resources, including social media, and distributed a virtual toolkit to employers in the lodging, transportation, entertainment, agricultural, manufacturing and construction industries. DOL launched a nationwide campaign to inform low-wage workers in such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel services, food services and home health care about their rights and how to recover wages owed; the campaign did not include specific anti-trafficking information.
The United States does not directly participate in UN peacekeeping and has only a minimal presence within those operations. Nevertheless, pre-deployment anti-trafficking training takes place for all military personnel. DoD updated its mandatory general human trafficking awareness training, with the potential to reach 3.5 million military members and civilian employees.
U.S. laws provide extraterritorial jurisdiction over child sex tourism offenses perpetrated overseas by U.S. citizens. DHS made seven criminal arrests resulting in five indictments and six convictions in child sex tourism cases in FY 2010.
U.S. Insular Areas
The U.S. insular areas consist of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Federal authority over these areas resides in the Department of the Interior (DOI), which participated in the President’s Interagency Task Force in 2010. While the U.S. government has compacts of free association with Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, they are independent of the United States and thus discussed and ranked in separate narratives. The insular areas are a destination for men and women subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution.
In the Territory of American Samoa, there were no new reported human trafficking cases. The legislature did not pass a bill, introduced in October 2009, which would have criminalized human trafficking as a felony offense.
In CNMI, there were six reported human trafficking cases involving multiple victims held in clubs, restaurants and massage parlors. A trend was observed involving the cancellation of victims’ return airplane tickets upon admission, stranding them with no financial means to return and rendering them wholly dependent on their employers. During the reporting period, the Federal Labor Ombudsman identified 71 victims of trafficking or fraud in labor contracting, of whom about 20 percent were sex trafficking victims. In 2010, the NGO working on the local anti-trafficking task force assisted 36 human trafficking victims and 40 fraud in labor contracting victims; an additional 31 victims qualified for services but could not be assisted due to insufficient funds.
In the Territory of Guam, DOJ prosecuted a multi-victim sex trafficking case, convicting a karaoke bar owner who forced multiple young women from Chu’uk in the Federated States of Micronesia and one juvenile girl into prostitution. The Guam legislature did not address a draft bill that would have closed loopholes that allow massage parlors to conduct illicit activities. There continued to be concern that a military build-up on Guam could involve labor exploitation and trafficking of the thousands of guestworkers expected; efforts were made by federal actors to have this considered in the planning stages. DOJ led a coordinated effort to identify human trafficking cases, provide services to victims, and bring the traffickers to justice in Guam and the CNMI. Uniquely, this effort included participation of foreign consulates from source countries and cross-training with investigators and other government officials from other Pacific jurisdictions.
In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico there were no reported trafficking cases. NGOs worked to bring the issue to the attention of the legislature, law enforcement, service providers and the public at large. Puerto Rico had no local anti-trafficking law; there is an outstanding proposal to revise the penal code to include trafficking. There were no local government efforts or coordination with federal authorities to address human trafficking.
There were no documented cases of human trafficking in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, ICE officers in the U.S. Virgin Islands were placed on alert for potential human trafficking, but no victims were identified.
SAUDI ARABIA (Tier 3)
Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and to a much lesser extent, forced prostitution. Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as the withholding of passports or confinement to the workplace. Recent reports of abuse include the driving of nails into a domestic worker’s body. Although many migrant workers sign contracts delineating their rights, some report work conditions that are substantially different from those described in the contract while others never see the contract at all, leaving them vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage. Due to Saudi Arabia’s requirement that foreign workers receive permission from their employer to get an “exit visa” before they are able to leave the country, some migrant workers report that they were forced to work for months or years beyond their contract term because their employer would not grant them the exit permit. Local and international media reported in May and June that some Nepalese domestic workers had been recruited to work in Kuwait and then illegally transported to work in Saudi Arabia against their will.
Women, primarily from Asian and African countries, were believed to have been forced into prostitution in Saudi Arabia; others were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers. Yemeni, Nigerian, Pakistani, Afghan, Chadian, and Sudanese children were subjected to forced labor as beggars and street vendors in Saudi Arabia, facilitated by criminal gangs. Saudi authorities reported fewer Yemeni children may have been forced to work in Saudi Arabia during the reporting period. Some Saudi nationals travel to destinations including Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to solicit prostitution. Some Saudi men used legally contracted “temporary marriages” in countries such as Egypt, India, Mauritania, Yemen, and Indonesia as a means by which to sexually exploit young girls and women overseas.
The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. In a positive development, the government undertook some efforts to improve its response to the vast human trafficking problem in Saudi Arabia, including training government officials on its 2009 anti-trafficking law and conducting surprise visits to places where victims may be found. The government also achieved its first conviction under its human trafficking law. Nonetheless, the government did not prosecute and punish a significant number of trafficking offenders or significantly improve victim protection services during the year. The government’s policy of allowing Saudi citizens and residents to sponsor migrant workers and restrict their freedoms, including exit from the country, continued to obstruct significant progress in dealing with human trafficking. While Saudi Arabia continued to discuss alternatives to its sponsorship law, the government did not implement any new system. Domestic workers – the population most vulnerable to forced labor – remained excluded from general labor law protections, and employers continued to regularly withhold workers’ passports as a means of keeping them in forced labor.
Recommendations for Saudi Arabia: Significantly increase efforts to prosecute, punish, and stringently sentence traffickers, including abusive employers and those culpable of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, under the 2009 anti-trafficking law; enforce laws prohibiting employers from withholding migrants’ passports and arbitrarily denying permission for exit visas as a means of preventing trafficking abuses; reform the structure of the sponsorship system to discourage employers from withholding workers’ passports and restricting workers’ movements; institute a formal victim identification mechanism to distinguish trafficking victims among the thousands of workers deported each year for immigration violations and other crimes; ensure that victims of trafficking are not punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as running away from abusive employers; ensure trafficking victims in practice are able to pursue criminal cases against their employers; improve victim protection at the Riyadh shelter by transforming it into an open shelter where victims are not locked in; enforce labor laws and expand full labor protections to domestic workers; and continue and expand judicial training and public awareness campaigns on recognizing cases of human trafficking.
The Government of Saudi Arabia made limited law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. The “Suppression of the Trafficking in Persons Act,” promulgated by Royal Decree number M/40 of 2009 defines and prohibits all forms of human trafficking, prescribing punishments of up to 15 years and fines of up to $266,667. Penalties may be increased under certain circumstances, including trafficking committed by an organized criminal group or committed against a woman, child, or person with special needs. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. Since the law includes some concepts unrelated to human trafficking, the government must disaggregate law enforcement activity under this law to indicate which prosecutions and convictions are for trafficking. Although the 2009 anti-trafficking law does not address withholding passports and exit visas as a means of obtaining or maintaining a person’s forced labor or service, Council of Ministers decision 166 of 2000 prohibits the common practice of withholding workers’ passports. The Council of Ministers statement accompanying the 2009 anti-trafficking law secures the right of victims to remain in Saudi Arabia during the investigation and court proceedings, incentivizing their assistance in prosecutions. The government’s Permanent Committee on Trafficking funded and organized regional trainings for 48 judges, lawyers, recruitment officers, social workers, and police officers on the 2009 anti-trafficking law and the definition of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government reported receiving 23 accusations of trafficking, resulting in 13 ongoing investigations and 10 prosecutions. One of these cases resulted in a successful conviction. On January 9, 2011, the Medina Summary Court sentenced a 54-year old Saudi woman accused of abusing and severely injuring her Indonesian maid to three years in prison, but denied the victim any monetary compensation associated with the criminal case. The victim is, however, entitled to monetary compensation in the ongoing civil trial. According to the Permanent Committee on Trafficking, government authorities also arrested individuals in at least nine other trafficking cases. The government neither reported any arrests, prosecutions, convictions, or sentences for forced prostitution, nor did it report efforts to enforce the Council of Ministers decision prohibiting the confiscation of foreign workers’ passports; this practice continued to be widespread. The government also did not report any investigations, arrests, prosecutions, or sentences of government officials for trafficking-related complicity.
Saudi Arabia made limited progress in protecting victims, but its overall efforts remained inadequate during the reporting period. Despite unannounced visits by the Permanent Committee on Trafficking to deportation centers, prisons, shelters, juvenile detention centers, equestrian clubs, and camel races to identify victims, procedures were not implemented to systematically identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations and the Committee did not report any victims identified during their visits. As a result, many victims of trafficking are likely punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Under Saudi law, foreign workers may be detained, deported, or in some cases, corporally punished for running away from their employers. Council of Ministers decision 244 authorizes the Permanent Committee on Trafficking to exempt trafficking victims from these punishments, but victims are often detained or deported without being identified. Women arrested for prostitution offenses face prosecution and, if convicted, imprisonment or corporal punishment, even if they are victims of trafficking.
The 2009 anti-trafficking law affords victims explanation of their legal rights in a language they understand, physical and psychological care, shelter, security, and the ability to stay in Saudi Arabia to testify in court proceedings. However, many victims sought refuge at their embassies instead; source countries report handling thousands of complaints of unpaid wages, physical or sexual abuse, or poor working conditions each year. One victim received medical and legal assistance from the Government of Saudi Arabia for injuries inflicted by her trafficker, including services for reconstructive surgery. It remains unclear, however, whether these rights are afforded in regular practice. No shelter or services are available to victims of sex trafficking. The government operated a short-term shelter for female runaway domestic workers in Riyadh, some of whom were likely subjected to physical or sexual abuse by their employers. In previous years, victims of physical and psychological abuse at these shelters reported that they were unlikely to receive assistance and some reported long waiting periods before the conclusion of their cases. The women were not free to leave and experienced restrictions on communication with family or consular contacts. In smaller cities in Saudi Arabia with poor access to the government shelter, victims of trafficking were kept in jails until their cases were resolved. Updated information on the conditions at these shelters was not available at the end of the reporting period. The government did not operate any long-term shelters or facilities to assist male victims of trafficking.
Saudi Arabia offered temporary relief from deportation to two victims who identified themselves to authorities. However, victims who have run away from their employers, overstayed their visas, or otherwise violated the legal terms of their visas were frequently jailed without being identified as victims. Some Saudi employers prevented foreign workers from leaving the country by refusing permission for them to get exit visas; this resulted in workers working beyond their contract terms against their will, languishing in detention centers indefinitely, or paying money to their employers or immigration officials to let them leave. Some police officers assisted victims by referring them to the government shelter. Other police officials, however, returned foreigners to their employers, pressured them to drop cases, or persuaded victims to take monetary compensation in lieu of filing criminal charges against their employers. Some employers file false counter-claims against foreign workers for theft, witchcraft, and adultery in retaliation for workers’ claims of abuse; as a result, in many cases, the workers rather than the employers are punished, which discourages workers from reporting abuse. The government provided some legal assistance to victims of trafficking, including the victim whose employer was sentenced under the 2009 anti-trafficking law. Nonetheless, few migrants successfully pursue criminal cases against abusive employers due to lengthy delays in the immigration and justice system.
The government has made nominal progress in preventing human trafficking during the reporting period, but systemic problems resulting from sponsorship system regulations persisted. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to encourage imams to regularly include anti-trafficking messages in their Friday sermons. To increase workers’ awareness of their rights, the Ministry of Labor continued to produce a guidebook for migrant workers in Arabic, English, and some source country languages. The government failed, however, to significantly reform the sponsorship structure to discourage employers from withholding workers’ passports and restricting workers’ movements. The structure of the sponsorship system, which holds employers responsible for the foreign workers they employ, enables employers to withhold foreign workers’ passports and restrict workers’ movements. Saudi Arabian law enforcement authorities had previously taken an administrative or civil approach in addressing cases of exploitation of workers, such as assessing fines, blacklisting or shutting down employment firms, issuing orders for employers to return withheld passports, or requiring employers to pay back wages. Despite efforts by the Permanent Committee on Trafficking to train law enforcement officials on the criminal punishments that can be levied in worker abuse cases, these punishments are not yet widely applied. In addition, domestic workers remain excluded from general labor law protections. In the reporting period, Saudi Arabia did not take actions to reduce the demand for prostitution or child sex tourism by Saudi nationals or acknowledge that trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation was a problem affecting