State Department Releases 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report

The U.S. Department of State just released the 2017 Trafficking in Persons [TIP] Report, which is produced annually and discusses the crisis of human trafficking around the world, as well as offering an in-depth and country-by-country evaluation of anti-human-trafficking efforts and their efficacy.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson introduced the report with a letter in which he characterized human trafficking as, “one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time,” and described it as, “splinter[ing] families, distort[ing] global markets, undermin[ing] the rule of law, and spur[ring] other transnational criminal activity.” He continues by saying, “It threatens public safety and national security. But worst of all, the crime robs human beings of their freedom and their dignity. That’s why we must pursue an end to the scourge of human trafficking.” Secretary Tillerson also described the report as “highlighting the successes achieved and the remaining challenges before us on this important global issue.”

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Susan Coppedge, also introduced the report with a letter and focused her comments on promoting, “a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach,” which, “requires, first and foremost, that the criminal justice system not penalize victims of human trafficking when they are forced to commit crimes as a direct result of their exploitation. When forced criminality takes place as part of the scheme, victims should not be further punished by the very system meant to protect them; and when they are, their convictions should be expunged and they should receive support and the comprehensive services to which they are entitled.”

The 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report continues with an introduction and a section on “Topics of Special Interest,” including, “The High Cost of Recruitment Fees,” “Human Trafficking: A Public Health Perspective,” “Assisting Male Survivors of Human Trafficking,” “Engaging Survivors of Human Trafficking,” “Online Sexual Exploitation of Children: An Alarming Trend,” and “Media Reporting on Human Trafficking.”  The report then proceeds to a definitional section on human trafficking and a methodological description of the report’s tier system, which is designed to measure, “the extent of governments’ efforts to meet the TVPA’s [Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act] minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.”  Such efforts include laws prohibiting trafficking, criminal penalties of a certain minimum severity, prosecution and sentencing of offenders, victim identification protocols, victim protection mandates, victim services, and measures to combat international sex tourism.

The bulk of the report is a country-by-country analysis of each government’s efforts to meet the TVPA minimum standards using the aforementioned tier system. Tier 1 countries are those whose governments, “fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” while Tier 2 countries are those whose governments, “do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”  Tier 2 Watch List countries are Tier 2 countries, but for whom, “the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing,” or for whom, “there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution, and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims, and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials;” or because, “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 steps over the next year.”  Tier 3 countries are simply those whose governments, “do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”  A detailed list of the categorization of each country can be found on page 46 of the report.

For more information about the homeland security challenges presented by human trafficking, check out the Homeland Security Digital Library, which offers numerous resources related to this topic, or previous articles about this subject at On the Homefront – The HSDL Blog.