The number of countries that have done little to combat human trafficking problems, including Libya, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, has nearly doubled from 13 to 23 in the past year, the State Department said Monday.
These countries could face U.S. sanctions, including the loss of foreign aid, if they don’t improve.
The State Department issued the rankings as part of its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which analyzes the trafficking of humans, mostly women and children, in 184 countries including the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in releasing the report that while progress has been made “we all have to do more.” She called it “modern-day slavery” and said “more human beings are exploited than before” - as many as 27 million men, women, and children.
Department officials said estimates include 100,000 human trafficking victims in the United States.
“As we assess ourselves and governments around the world, the true test of a countrys anti-trafficking efforts is not just whether a government has enacted strong laws consistent with that approach, but whether these laws are being implemented broadly and effectively,” Mrs. Clinton wrote in a letter accompanying the report. “In short, its whether they deliver.
“Last year, I visited a shelter for trafficking survivors. I was embraced by children who should have been in grade school, but were instead recovering from having been enslaved in a brothel,” Mrs. Clinton wrote. “Looking into the eyes of those girls and hearing their stories firsthand brought home for me once again the very real and personal tragedy of modern slavery.”
In its annual report, the State Department places countries in one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” The best ranking is Tier One, which includes countries like the United States. The lowest ranking is Tier 3.
The 2011 report reflects upgrades for 23 countries in recognition of progress made and downgrades for 22 countries.
The new countries in Tier 3, the lowest rank, are Algeria, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Micronesia, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Yemen. They join the bottom tier that already included Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Papua New Guinea.
Separately, the report also cited six nations, including Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, for using child soldiers and not taking steps to end the practice. Another 41 countries were placed on a “watch list,” which could lead to sanctions unless their records improve.
The Dominican Republic, which was in the bottom tier on the last report, improved its standards and moved up to the second tier.
The report recommendations for the U.S. included improving its data collection and its funding for victim services.
*This story is based in part on wire service reports.