During Hearing Tomorrow, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Should Raise Concerns Over Trafficking in Persons Report Credibility
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to raise concerns over the credibility of the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report during its hearing taking place tomorrow. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall will testify before the committee at the hearing, “Review of the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report.” Specifically, the organization urged the committee to ask how the State Department plans to address ambiguities in data used to rank countries, what action it will take to rebuild the credibility of the TIP report, and how it plans to press foreign governments to improve the number of human trafficking convictions in advance of the 2016 report.
“Since it was first developed, the TIP report has been a crucial tool for the United States to press foreign governments to make progress on combating human trafficking, which is a global human rights problem and the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world,” said Human Rights First’s Amy Sobel. “Perceived politicization of the report threatens to undermine its value and effectiveness. We urge the committee to raise the importance of ensuring the credibility of the report during the hearing with Under Secretary Sewall.”
The TIP Report issues a ranking of Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3 for each country. At a time when the Obama Administration is negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, Malaysia was given a Tier 2 Watch List ranking, an upgrade from the Tier 3 ranking that the country received in 2014. The 2015 TIP Report failed to provide substantial evidence that Malaysia had improved its efforts to combat human trafficking since 2014, when the country exhibited a rapidly declining rate of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.
Additionally, the 2015 report demonstrated the need for the U.S. government to increase resources focused on securing more investigations and prosecutions of the criminals perpetrating this horrific crime. The report lists the total number of prosecutions for human trafficking in 2014 to be 10,051 worldwide, with only 4,443 convictions. In the United States, the Department of Justice prosecuted only 208 human trafficking cases in 2014, up from 161 in 2013, and 138 in 2012. Of 5,000 visas available annually for trafficking victims in the United States, only 613 were issued in 2014, 848 in 2013, and 674 in 2012.
For more information or to speak with Sobel, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.