On June 27, the US Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The TIP Report provides rankings and narrative assessments of the efforts of countries across the globe to combat and prevent human trafficking, forced labor, and other forms of modern slavery. Countries must improve their efforts to fight human trafficking to avoid the lowest ranking of Tier 3 and accompanying sanctions.
Through our membership in the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) – a coalition of organizations working to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world – Verité has recognized and advocated for the important role played by the TIP report, which offers solid information for governments and policymakers, businesses and civil society organizations to help assess and track evidence of human trafficking and government efforts to address it. We have also advocated for the need for the TIP Report to remain objective and unbiased in its assessments of a country’s real progress toward enforcing laws that prohibit trafficking and forced labor.
The ATEST coalition’s statement on this year’s TIP report expresses concern about the credibility of the report, noting that while some country rankings in the report reflect real progress or challenges on the ground, other rankings are reflective of a pattern of inconsistency that calls the integrity of the report into question. In particular, ATEST has noted that the rankings for Malaysia, Burma, and Qatar suggest an uneven application of legal criteria and analysis and are suggestive that political influence may have been a factor in these rankings.
Verité’s own work in Malaysia has not provided indication of any substantial shift in the vulnerability of migrant workers to forced labor and human trafficking. Our worker-focused labor investigations in electronics, palm oil and other sectors continue to point to profound risk of these labor abuses. Multiple public reports in the last year have also provided evidence that migrant workers continue to toil in debt bondage and forced labor in key export sectors. The Malaysian government has not appeared to increase its attention to or effectiveness in combating forced labor and trafficking, and has notably failed to prosecute any Malaysian officials for their involvement in the Rohingya smuggling rings and mass graves found on the Malaysia-Thai border in 2015.
ATEST is urging Congress to assert its leadership and commitment to protecting the credibility and integrity of the TIP report, asking for passage of the TIP Report Integrity Restoration Act of 2017, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). This bill would strengthen the annual TIP Report by modifying the criteria to determine whether countries are meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons (TIP) and by highlighting the importance of documenting concrete actions by countries to show impact in eradicating TIP.
For more information, please contact Erin Klett