The ongoing global financial crisis is forcing millions into extreme poverty and boosting the supply and demand of human trafficking all over the world, a new State Department report says.
"Economic pressure, especially in this global economic crisis, makes more people susceptible to the false promises of traffickers," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the release of the annual "Trafficking in Persons Report" on Tuesday.
More young women and children are at risk of being trafficked as families in many countries face reduced incomes and tough economic times have also resulted in higher demand for cheap goods and services.
"This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain," Clinton said. "Human trafficking is a crime with many victims: not only those who are trafficked, but also the families they leave behind, some of whom never see their loved ones again."
Although the TIP Report cites a growing community of nations making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking – which includes forced labor, child soldiering and sexual exploitation – it also lists an expanded number of countries not doing enough to reduce the problem.
The State Department placed 52 countries and territories in its watchlist this year, a jump from 40 countries in 2008.
Newly added countries include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iraq, Lebanon, the Netherlands' Antilles, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates.
These countries, among others, do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the United States' Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. While some are making significant efforts to meet those standards, others show little evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.
Clinton said the report is not an indictment of past failures, but rather "a guide for future progress."
"With this report, we hope to shine the light brightly on the scope and scale of modern slavery so all governments can see where progress has been made and where more is needed," she said.
"Trafficking thrives in the shadows, and it can be easy to dismiss it as something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. But that's not the case. Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on earth, and that includes our own."
In the United States last year, the FBI opened 132 trafficking investigations, made 139 arrests and obtained 94 convictions.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) stated, "Our goal is simple: We want to end trafficking. We want to end this modern slavery. ... And the United States is going to provide the leadership."
World Vision, which has anti-trafficking initiatives operating around the world, recommends that governments strengthen implementation of anti-trafficking laws and also involve trafficking victims in designing national and regional policies that increase protection. The Christian development organization also calls for more research into the motivation of traffickers.
The TIP Report covers the period of April 2008 through March 2009 and is the most comprehensive worldwide report on governments' efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons.