Lessons from the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report

The recently released TIP report shows that several key countries are taking certain important steps to combat trafficking but lagging in other ways.

Japan, which maintains the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (TITP), is considering a bill that would establish a third party to conduct management audits and oversight mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for forced labor. The bill would also provide a mechanism for redress for foreign migrants. Despite such progress, overall efforts within the country decreased.

Mexico also presents a unique case study. Cooperative efforts with U.S. law enforcement officials have been successful, leading to at least 15 joint operations during the time period covered by the report. A working group was also created to exchange information between the two countries on migrant smuggling. Troublingly, however, Mexican officials have not reported any success in two issue areas: corruption among officials and standardized reporting. For the former, corruption is widespread—yet not one official was convicted for taking part in or abetting trafficking-related crimes. For the latter, failure to standardize reporting has led to inaccurate data, which is essential to anti-trafficking efforts.

India, one of the world’s epicenters of debt bondage and forced labor, also had mixed results. Corrupt law enforcement officials protected suspected traffickers, took bribes from brothel owners, and actively impeded rescue efforts, yet the Indian government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions surrounding such corrupt activity. Efforts were increased to work with international organizations, NGOs, and state governments to train police, judges, and lawyers to better handle trafficking cases.

For other partners, the TIP Report has revealed possible stagnation in anti-trafficking reporting. China continues not to directly provide clear data, and Germany, despite partnering with fellow European nations to investigate and prosecute offenders, released no new data.

Ultimately, the TIP Report should remain a yardstick by which the United States continues to measure its partners’ records on human trafficking. Acknowledging progress and redressing failures should remain a part of all future reports, and indeed, a part of all bilateral and multilateral trade discussions. The successes and failures documented in the 2015 Report underscore the need for a global increase in resources and accountability, without which, modern day slavery will continue to thrive.

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Published on July 30, 2015

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