Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US releases human trafficking blacklist

OFF THE LIST Israel and Brazil were removed from the watch list for having made `significant efforts' to combat human trafficking, while five allies were added to it

AFP , WASHINGTON

Washington's Middle Eastern allies Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, as well as key trading partner Malaysia, were added to a blacklist of countries trafficking in people on Tuesday.

Algeria and Guinea were the other additions to the blacklist of the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report which analyzed efforts in 164 countries to combat trafficking for forced labor, prostitution, military service and other purposes.

The seven countries, all of whom were on a special watch list last year, join Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan and Venezuela in the dreaded "Tier 3" list as the worst offenders of human trafficking.

Those on the blacklist could face sanctions and see the US withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign aid.

Launching the 236-page report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cited "disturbing evidence" that prosecution of human trafficking cases had leveled off across the globe.

In countries where there were major human trafficking problems, "only a couple" of traffickers were brought to justice, she said, "This cannot and must not be tolerated."

US government research shows 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders. About 80 percent of them are women and girls, and up to half are minors, the State Department said.

The majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation, it said.

The wealthy Middle East nations added to the blacklist this year were largely accused of mistreating foreign workers.

"It is especially disappointing that so many wealthy countries in the Near East that aren't lacking resources to make significant progress are on Tier 3, for example Saudi Arabia for the third consecutive year," said Mark Lagon, Rice's senior advisor on the human trafficking problem.

Malaysia was cited for "failure to show satisfactory progress" in areas such as punishing acts of trafficking, providing adequate shelters and social services to victims and protecting migrant workers from involuntary servitude, the report said.

India, which is considered to have the world's worst human trafficking problem and has been on a watch list for four consecutive years with Russia and Mexico, received a specific warning that it could be relegated further to the black list if it failed to contain the problem.

China, Armenia and South Africa were on the watch list for the third consecutive year. Sri Lanka was also placed on the watch list.

Singapore, which had been on the Tier 1 list, was relegated to Tier 2 this year. It "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking," the report said.

The Singaporean parliament was urged to approve proposed amendments that would criminalize prostitution involving minors, extend extra-territorial jurisdiction over Singaporeans involved in sexual services from minors overseas and make promoting child sex tours a criminal offense.

Bolivia, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, Peru and Jamaica had made "significant efforts" to combat the trafficking problem and were removed from the watch list, officials said.

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