- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

There were up to 4 million victims of human trafficking globally over the past year, 50,000 of them in the United States, the State Department said yesterday, threatening sanctions against countries not complying with U.S. requirements to curb the practice.

Among the blacklisted nations, whose number has dropped to 19 from 23 last year, are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Lebanon, as well as U.S. allies Greece, Turkey and Russia. But only the ones that remain on the list next year will be penalized under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, adopted by Congress in 2000.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the Bush administration is resolved to stop "this appalling assault on the dignity of men, women and children." He said that every year, "an estimated 700,000 to 4 million people around the world are victimized by traffickers through fraud, coercion and outright kidnapping."

According to the State Department's second annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which covers the situation in 89 countries between April 2001 and March 2002, traffickers "use fraudulent employment, travel, modeling and matchmaking agencies to lure young men and women" into joining their networks.

"Here and abroad, the victims of trafficking toil under inhuman conditions in brothels, sweatshops, fields and even in private homes," Mr. Powell told reporters at the State Department.

The report divides the countries it examines in three tiers, based on the extent of trafficking, their governments' compliance with the 2000 act's standards and the measures they have taken to fight what yesterday's document calls "modern-day slavery."

The first tier includes 18 nations that "fully comply" with U.S. requirements. Most of them are Western countries, but much-troubled Colombia and Macedonia are also on the list. South Korea, which won much praise from Mr. Powell, moved up all the way from the third tier.

The second tier is the largest, with 52 countries, in which Israel, Romania and Pakistan are newcomers. The decision to award Pakistan a higher grade this year was not political, said Nancy Ely-Raphel, an adviser to Mr. Powell who specializes in the issue, referring to Islamabad's crucial role in the war on terrorism and the tense situation with India.

The third tier is the blacklist, which also includes Afghanistan, Armenia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates.

"Countries that make a serious effort to address the problem will find a partner in the United States, ready to help them design and implement effective programs," Mr. Powell said. "Countries that do not make such an effort, however, will be subject to sanctions under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act beginning next year."

Penalties will include non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions, such as U.S. opposition to assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial institutions, according to the 2000 legislation. But the president can waive those sanctions for national security reasons.

Critics of the report said yesterday it was too soft on some nations, which could do much more to stop trafficking.

"Countries like India and Thailand have been given passing grades without deserving them, and that will strengthen their complacency," said Sharon Cohn of the International Justice Mission, a Washington-based group.

"The report fails to put forth any objective data and to accurately assess some countries," she said.

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