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Slavery: US gives bad marks to China and Russia in its annual report

The State Department report on slavery notes that more countries are prosecuting traffickers and providing services to rescued victims. But China and Russia are failing to make progress, the US says.

By Staff writer / June 19, 2013



Washington

The US is giving world powers China and Russia a black eye for their failure to make progress against the global scourge of people trafficking – also known as slavery.

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The slap at the two powers comes at a time when President Obama is seeking to engage the countries’ leaders on key divisive issues. Mr. Obama struggled to find common ground this week in Europe with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the crisis in Syria, and last week in California with Chinese President Xi Jinping on cybersecurity.

In its annual report on worldwide trafficking in persons (TIP) the State Department does highlight some bright spots:

• More countries are prosecuting traffickers and providing services to the rescued victims of trafficking and slavery.

• And the number of convictions worldwide in trafficking cases, once rare, jumped by 20 percent last year.

"When we think of the scale of modern-day slavery, literally tens of millions who live in exploitation, this whole effort can seem daunting, but it's the right effort," Secretary of State John Kerry said in releasing the report Wednesday.

"There are countless voiceless people, countless nameless people except to their families or perhaps a phony name by which they are being exploited, who look to us for their freedom," he said.

The report also highlights the cases of individual “heroes” from around the world who went out of their way to assist trafficking victims, bring violators to justice, or challenge the impunity that too often stymies anti-trafficking efforts.

There’s the case of Mohammed Bassam Al-Nasseri, an Iraqi migrant worker specialist who played a critical role in passage and implementation of Iraq’s 2012 comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation – and who rescued 35 Bulgarian and Ukrainian construction workers from virtual imprisonment at an Iraqi construction site.

And then there’s Susan Ople, who founded a Philippine non-profit that helps exploited and stranded Overseas Filipino Workers – so numerous they are referred to as OFWs.

But the annual report is also about signaling the laggards in the global fight against people trafficking, and perhaps also about prompting action as a result of the shame of being labeled as insufficient in anti-trafficking laws and practices.

That’s where cases like those of China and Russia come in. In addition to the two global powers, Uzbekistan was also downgraded to “tier 3,” the report’s lowest level.

China is “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the report finds. It also points out that China has been on the report’s trafficking “watch list” for the past nine years.

As for Russia, labor trafficking remains the “predominant” trafficking issue, according to the report, with an estimated 1 million people in Russia subject to conditions – such as forced labor, withholding of documents, nonpayment for services, physical abuse, or extremely poor living conditions – characteristic of modern-day slavery.

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