Nearly two dozen countries are failing to do enough to tackle human trafficking, a world-wide scourge that claims some 27 million men, women, and children as victims, according to the U.S. State Department.
In its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report
," the Obama administration nearly doubled the number of countries that may face U.S. sanctions for not doing enough to combat human trafficking.
It identified 23 states as failing to meet minimum international standards to curb the scourge, which claims mainly women and children as victims, up from 13 in 2010.
The report analyzed conditions in 184 countries, including the United States, and ranked them in terms of their effectiveness in fighting what many have termed modern-day slavery.
"Unfortunately, because of the ease of transportation and the global communications that can reach deep into villages with promises and pictures of what a better life might be, we now see that more human beings are exploited than before -- there are as many as 27 million men, women, and children," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the release of the report on June 27. "And governments have taken important steps, but we have to really mix the commitments with actions in order to get results."
Among the countries on the blacklist are Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, and Sudan, along with frequent U.S. foes Eritrea, Libya, and Zimbabwe.
Others are U.S. allies in the Middle East like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, while Papua New Guinea was cited as a repeat offender.
Only one country, the Dominican Republic, was removed from the list.
Turkmenistan was one of the countries added to the list this year. Ashgabat was given the worst ranking, Tier 3, among all former Soviet republics.
It was faulted for failing to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking or making significant efforts to do so, and for not making "any significant efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes or to identify and protect victims of trafficking."
The report said that "men and women [in Turkmenistan are] subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution," and noted that "women from Turkmenistan are subjected to forced prostitution in Turkey, and men and women from Turkmenistan are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Turkey, including in textile sweatshops, construction sites, and in domestic servitude."
It faulted the government of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov for "not fulfill[ing] its commitment to allocate financial or in-kind assistance to antitrafficking organizations" or indeed "show any significant efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes or to identify and protect victims of trafficking during the last year."
The U.S. report also said it documented for the first time the presence of Turkmen trafficking victims in Russia and the United Kingdom.
Iran was also named a Tier-3 country for being a "source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor" and because Tehran "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so."
It also noted that "lack of access to Iran by U.S. government officials impedes the collection of information on the country's human trafficking problem and the government's efforts to curb it."
According to the report, "Iranian women are trafficked internally for forced prostitution and forced marriage. Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation -- sometimes through forced marriages, in which their new 'husbands' force them into prostitution and involuntary servitude as beggars or laborers to pay debts, provide income, or support drug addiction of their families."
Also documented are "reports of women and girls being sold for marriage to men in Pakistan for the purpose of sexual servitude. Young men and Afghan boys are forced into prostitution in male brothels in southern Iran or to Afghan and Pakistani warlords. Iranian women and children -- both girls and boys -- are also subjected to sex trafficking in Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom."
The U.S. report also faulted the Iranian government for making no discernible efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period, but rather to punish them." It said Iran "continued to favor direct deportation of foreign victims of trafficking over protection [and] during the reporting period...deported very large numbers of undocumented Afghans without attempting to identify trafficking victims among them."
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