Alyssa Invernizzi, our Summer 2023 intern, reports on a webinar organized by the US State Department on the 2023 TIP Report.
On June 23rd, the State Department held its annual panel for the 2023 Trafficking in Persons report. Joining Ambassador Cindy Dyer, US Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, was Desiree Sio Weymont, who oversees the TIP report, and Mark Forstorm, who manages trafficking cases outside the US and observes crucial partnerships that help end human trafficking. The report reveals the US government's efforts to combat trafficking by protecting victims and preventing its spread yearly. At IAWJ, ending human trafficking is a priority for our programs. The result of the report allows us to reflect on whether to continue our initiatives or create new strategies.
24 countries upgraded their prevention efforts, with half of those countries being in Africa. There were expanded efforts in addressing labor trafficking resulting in a 50% increase in prosecution. Although many trafficking victims were identified, there are still downgrades. Roughly 20 countries lowered in tiers, meaning their efforts to prevent human trafficking have been reduced. 11 of those countries have government-supported trafficking, which is concerning. The panel frequently discusses cyber scams meaning that traffickers will find their next victims through online job announcements to go abroad. These occur in horrible conditions in compounds, and victims starve or experience violence if they show disobedience. The main themes the panel discussed included survivor engagement, country narratives, forced labor, program funding, and methodology.
Survivor engagement permits the state department, NGOs, and other organizations to address their perseverance. They can learn from their experiences and convey more cross-cutting issues in their reports. For example, the report analyzes the forced criminality of cyber scams through fake cryptocurrencies, romance, video games, etc. The public is unaware of this, and without survivor engagement is crucial to create awareness around the problem. We do not want survivors criminalized for immigration or cyber scams due to trafficking. We must spread awareness of the issue to prevent it since most people do not know about it. Secondly, we want to refine screening at airports and other transportation methods abroad to ensure jobs are legitimate. Lastly, we want to establish international programming and eliminate fraudulent recruitment channels. This will help law enforcement to assist and identify forced criminality.
Country narratives and TIP report heroes have allowed countries to shift tiers in the last year. The 2023 TIP report heroes included journalists, activists, and lawmakers from Brazil, Cambodia, Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Peru, and Venezuela. The report contains 188 countries and territories with access to the tier patterns of concrete actions they are taking concerning trafficking (impact of efforts). Significant changes include Denmark moving to Tier 1 and Hong Kong and Indonesia upgrading to Tier 2. In these countries, the US narrative notes the success and shortcomings of government efforts to meet minimum standards. The state department remains eager to implement recommendations in the report.
The discussions evolved around 4 countries. One participant first asked why the department has not mentioned Yemen in recent years. They clarified that the TIP report had included them, and it's a particular case where they have limited territorial control and cannot build up effective responses. Another attendee asked how Hong Kong moved into the second tier since little progress was made toward human trafficking laws. The panel explained that their investigations, prosecutions, and victim identification have improved. Since the report focuses heavily on the 3 P's: prosecution, protection, and partnership, they saw improvement in Hong Kong. However, sex and labor trafficking increases, and sentencing can be insufficient. A participant mentioned that reported numbers in Belize do not connect with trafficking crimes that occur. They believe the issue is the lack of reporting in general. NGOs can hold the government accountable for reporting trafficking, and they should partner to ensure more progress. Robust partnerships and communication are vital to impacting these numbers. Lastly, Taiwan's primary concern is the fishing sector and how can it be in Tier 1. The panel responds that their efforts are inadequate, but the government still meets minimum standards. Victims were identified through a new action plan. They recognized that forced seafood labor is a critical problem near the coastline and deep water. The board is concerned about the vessels' harsh conditions, and although this is tracked globally, identifying victims far from land is tricky.
Lastly, the department presents the methodology and program funding for future projects. The next step in the plan is to separate empirical studies, utilize the 3 Ps, study qualitative/ quantitative data, and understand the strength of the added systems. With funding, the department will focus on all anti-trafficking campaigns surrounding adults and children. Those decisions result from the TIP report and political will in the USA. Mentoring and training of officials were also mentioned as priorities, which align with the program strategies of IAWJ on the issue. For further questions about funding opportunities or the report, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.