TIP Report Turns Up the Heat on Labor Trafficking

Since it’s inception in 2001, The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report has brought the world’s efforts to combat modern day slavery into the light. But in its fifteen years of existence, the report has mostly focused on one area of this massive criminal enterprise: sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking is a heinous crime and should receive considerable attention. However, it’s not the only form human trafficking takes. Recently, on National Public Radio’s blog The Salt, Tracy McMillan explored the TIP report’s increasing coverage of labor trafficking.

Dedicated to in-depth explorations of what we eat and why we are eating it, the NPR Science Desk’s latest entry highlighted the pervasive presence of labor trafficking in agriculture. Supply chains in food industries are often porous, vulnerable to forced labor and debt bondage. Fisheries and fishing boats are prime examples of unregulated systems run amok, most noticeably in Southeast Asia, where trafficked laborers endure 22 hour days, physical torture, or in extreme cases, death.

The feature also noted the curious case of Malaysia, which despite well-documented and widespread abuse in the palm oil industry, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2-Watch List in the TIP Report. The upgrade is likely tied to negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

The increased presence of labor trafficking in this year’s report reflects the burgeoning efforts of law enforcement, business, and NGOs to work together to purge trafficked labor from supply chains. In our blueprint, “How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking,” Human Rights First recently detailed steps to eradicate human trafficking, including the need to foster such partnerships. When combined with increased prosecutions, decreased financial rewards for criminals, and expanded resources, human trafficking can be removed from our food supply and the criminals behind it can get their just desserts.

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Published on August 4, 2015

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