U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and advisor to the president, Ivanka Trump, unveiled the “2017 Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) Report on Tuesday.
Tillerson introduced the report by reading from its preamble. He said, “The purpose of this act (the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Acto fo 2000) is to combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery, whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect the victims.”
He continued, “And then it – I want to read just one more line: ‘As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world.’”
“But worst of all, the crime robs human beings of their freedom and their dignity,” the secretary continued. “That’s why we must pursue an end to the scourge of human trafficking.
He stated there are currently 20 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. “The report (attached below) is an important tool to help us understand and help us help other governments understand, but the end of it – it’s the individual, it’s the victim, and our ability to prevent others from being victimized,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson introduced Ivanka Trump, advisor to President Donald Trump, as a long-time advocate for fighting human trafficking.
“Ending human trafficking is a major priority for the Trump Administration,” Ms. Trump stated. She cited an executive order signed by the president in February, emphasizing the importance of enforcing federal law against Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) and preventing international trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive human rights issue affecting millions, no matter their gender, age, or nationality,” she continued. “It is often a profoundly secret crime. One of the greatest challenges is to merely identify those trapped in modern slavery. Even conservative estimates conclude that some 20 million people around the world, including right here in the United States, are trapped in human trafficking situations, terrible circumstances of exploitation, including so many young girls and boys who are victims of unthinkable tragedy of child sex trafficking.”
This year’s report emphasizes the responsibility all governments have to prosecute human traffickers,” Trump explained. “It also provides an opportunity for countries to see how others are fighting human trafficking and to adopt the most effective strategies and tactics, while renewing their own resolve in this struggle.”
Secretary Tillerson introduced the report, stating:
In particular, the introduction of this year’s Report focuses on the responsibility of governments to criminalize human trafficking and hold offenders accountable. To that end, this Report is intended to assist governments in identifying threats so law enforcement agencies around the world can respond effectively and gain insight into where human trafficking remains most severe. The Report will also equip local and sub-national law enforcement agencies to better assist in efforts to target and prosecute those who commit these terrible crimes.
Tillerson singled out China for its failure to deal with North Korean citizens sent into its country to work as forced laborers. “China was downgraded to Tier Three status in this year’s report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking – including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China,” the secretary charged.
“An estimated fifty to eighty thousand North Korean citizens are working overseas as forced laborers, primarily in Russia and China, many of them working 20 hours a day,” he explained. “Their pay does not come to them directly. It goes to the Government of Korea, which confiscates most of that, obviously.
The secretary recognized Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the Philippines for progress in fighting human trafficking. He said the Philippines has seen an 80 percent increase in prosecutions of human traffickers.
Ms. Trump said the report enables other countries to see the progress being made by others. She discussed her conversations with victims of human trafficking during her travels abroad. She said, “These survivors are not only victims; they are heroes.”
During the ceremony, several people from around the globe were recognized for their part in battling human trafficking.
Ms. Trump detailed those being honored, stating:
Today, we honor a police officer, whose efforts led to the identification of 350 children forced into labor; a union leader, who protects workers in the fishing industry; a judge, who played a critical role in drafting her country’s first anti-trafficking legislation; a journalist, who shines a light on forced labor; a faith leader, who works to protect vulnerable migrants; a sociologist, whose groundbreaking research considers the structural challenges affecting vulnerable populations; an advocate, who founded an NGO to care for child sex trafficking victims; and a survivor, the first in her country to win civil damages in a sex trafficking case. Each of these heroes is a source of inspiration. They all have different backgrounds but are united in this shared cause. We celebrate and we stand with each of you.
In a written statement laying out the report, Secretary Tillerson stated, “The United States is a leader in the fight against human trafficking. We seek justice for victims and accountability for offenders. This Report is instrumental to our strategy to end human trafficking. I am proud of the work and dedication of the Department towards that end, and remain committed to the elimination of human trafficking here and abroad.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.