The United States today added six African countries to a blacklist of countries trafficking in people, and put US trading partner Malaysia back on the list.
Chad, Eritrea, Niger, Mauritania, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe were added to the list in the annual report, which analysed efforts in 173 countries to fight trafficking in humans for forced labor, prostitution, military service and other reasons.
Staying on the blacklist list are US allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but also Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Burma, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, and Syria, according to the State Department report for 2009.
Removed from the list were Qatar, Oman, Algeria, and Moldova.
“This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in introducing the report.
The ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ said “the global economic crisis is also boosting the demand side of human trafficking.”
The 17 countries on the blacklist could face sanctions, including the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade related US aid.
The report said Malaysia fails not only to “fully comply” with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking but “is not making significant efforts to do so.”
Last year the report elevated Malaysia to a “watch list” from the 2007 blacklist after finding that it was “making significant efforts” to comply with such standards.
The new report said that while the government took early steps to fight sex trafficking, it has yet to fully tackle labor trafficking in Malaysia.
It also said there were “credible allegations,” including those in a Senate report this year, that some immigration officials took part in trafficking and extorting refugees from Burma.
Zimbabwe joins rogues’ gallery
Like many African and other poor countries, the report said, Zimbabwe “is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation.”
Some of the many Zimbabweans who fled to neighbouring countries amid Zimbabwe’s severe economic and political crisis faced “human trafficking,” it said.
It charged that members of Zimbabwe’s military were involved in trafficking.
Chad “showed no results in enforcing government policy prohibiting recruitment of child soldiers,” the 320-page report said.
The government of Niger “demonstrated marginal efforts to combat human trafficking, including traditional slavery, during the last year,” it said.
“The government of Mauritania made inadequate efforts to raise awareness of trafficking during the last year,” it added.
Eritrea showed no progress in prosecuting or punishing traffickers, while Swaziland showed no effort to do the same.
Burma shows some progress
The report said Saudi Arabia and Kuwait admit men and women from Asian and African countries to work as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but then subject many to “involuntary servitude.”
It added that Saudi Arabia made “no discernible efforts” to punish or prosecute traffickers, although Kuwait “demonstrated some progress” in punishing them.
North Korea does not recognise or make any attempt to identify trafficking victims, it said. Nor does it make any effort to prosecute perpetrators.
But another longstanding blacklist member Burma showed some progress to fight cross-border trafficking as well as limited efforts to investigate and prosecute internal trafficking, it said.
Fiji, described as a source country for child laborers and prostitutes, showed no significant efforts to protect victims or prosecute perpetrators, it said.