Migrant laborers are photographed here on a fishing boat in Thailand's Rayong province - a common destination for trafficking victims.
Trafficking in Thailand's fishing industry has again been highlighted by the U.S. State Department, which on Friday downgraded the country in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Now, Thailand shares the "Tier 3" category with 22 other countries, putting it on par in the eyes of Washington with the likes of North Korea, Syria and the Central African Republic in its response to human trafficking.
Thai officials acknowledge they have a problem, but say progress is being made.
By Melysa Sperber
Editor’s Note: Melysa Sperber is Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a U.S. based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author.
(CNN) - For the past 14 years, the U.S. State Department has used its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to judge how well the world is addressing modern slavery.
Each year, the report draws much-needed attention to the horrors of human trafficking that flourish everywhere from fishing boats in Thailand and palm plantations in Malaysia, to brick kilns in India and the sex industry in just about every country worldwide.
Hidden behind the shadows, traffickers prey on men, women and children, luring the vulnerable among us with promises of honest employment that are merely a facade for work conditions that are dangerous, exploitative and sometimes deadly.
To date, the TIP Report’s country-by-country assessment has proven to be a powerful motivator, inspiring governments to improve efforts to reduce modern slavery in order to avoid the report’s lowest Tier 3 ranking - a diplomatic black eye that comes with the threat of U.S. sanctions.
The State Department’s power to influence other countries’ anti-trafficking efforts depends on the TIP Report’s integrity.
By Leif Coorlim
Washington, DC (CNN) –- After several years of what it says are broken promises, the U.S. government has singled out Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela and The Gambia for taking insufficient action against human trafficking.
In its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released Friday, the U.S. State Department downgraded the four countries to Tier 3, the lowest possible ranking it gives for national responses to fighting modern day slavery.
The report says there is evidence of forced labor and sex trafficking in Malaysia and Thailand. It highlights Malaysia’s problem with migrants from other Asian nations who seek work on farms, factories and construction sites only to be trapped and have their passports taken and wages withheld.
Editor’s Note: Susan Ople is founder and president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a Philippine non-profit organization dedicated to helping distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with labor and migration issues. The center also provides free legal help to human trafficking survivors, and other free reintegration services. She was named as a U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Hero of 2013.
By Susan V. Ople, Special for CNN
If you ask young people what they could get for U.S. $200 or less, their answers would probably include a tablet, a smart phone, or a designer bag. Not on the list, a foreign maid - unless you live in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, or any country in the Middle East.
In the United States, maids are for the rich and famous. Modern-day slavery in the western world commonly wears the face of a prostitute, a trafficked child, or an illegal migrant exploited by his or her employer. For third world countries, human slavery often has the face of a domestic worker isolated from society and kept invisible inside private homes of their employers.
As an advocate for migrant workers’ rights, I have seen slavery up close. It has many faces: a jealous female employer, sexual predators, pimps, illegal recruiters, and corrupt officials. Common among them is the belief that a foreign domestic worker is a commodity to be used or sold, or both. FULL POST
Russia and China were downgraded to bottom tier nations for their efforts to fight human trafficking, by a U.S. government report.
In the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, China and Russia were relegated to Tier 3 - the lowest of four rankings which names countries whose governments do not fully comply with minimum anti-trafficking standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The classification includes countries like Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe, and Tier 3 countries are open to sanctions from the U.S. government. FULL POST
President Barack Obama called modern day slavery "barbaric" and "evil" as he spoke out Tuesday against trafficking and praised companies, organizations and individuals fighting the traffickers.
He also signed an executive order strengthening protections against human trafficking for domestic federal contracts, and tightening anti-trafficking rules for government contracts abroad worth more than $500,000.
Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, Obama said: "It ought to concern every person, because it's a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric.
"It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.
"I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name–modern slavery."
The annual Trafficking in Persons Report - the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts - was published Tuesday by the U.S. State Department.
It identifies countries that the U.S. says meet minimum standards of anti-trafficking efforts, countries working towards them and countries that appear to be doing little to stop trafficking.
The report is compiled with the help of U.S. embassies, non-governmental organizations, aid groups and individuals around the world.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Ultimately, this report reminds us of the human cost of this crime. Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life and our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it's getting a good job to send money home, to support a family, trying to get an education for one's self or for one's children or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life.
Teenagers who once worked in India’s sex trade showed how dance is helping them leave their previous lives behind.
Five girls performed for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to India.
They are part of Kolkata Sanved, a dance therapy movement founded in 2004 by Sohini Chakraborty, a dance sociologist and dance activist. It provides an alternative approach to therapy and healing for victims of violence and trafficking.
The 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, produced by the State Department, said: “India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."
By Hyun Soo Suh, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and heads of various U.S. government departments made clear Thursday that preventing human trafficking is a priority of the Obama administration.
The 27 million men, women and children victims of human trafficking are an "affront to our most fundamental values," Clinton said at the annual meeting at the White House of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Clinton chaired the meeting of the task force, which is a Cabinet-level unit that coordinates federal efforts.
Those in attendance - including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - highlighted recent successes and the new collaborative efforts to combat human trafficking around the world and on the domestic front.
"For us at the national security staff, this is a national security issue," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. "... Human trafficking is at the nexus of organized crime, is a source for funding for international terrorist groups, (and) is a source for funding for transnational terrorist groups. It fundamentally endangers international security."
In a panel hosted by CNN's Jim Clancy, anti-slavery activists speak out about what can and should be done.
CNN is joining the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on the horrors of modern-day slavery, amplifying the voices of the victims, highlighting success stories and helping unravel the complicated tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life. WHY WE'RE DOING THIS | MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT