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Sri Lanka on US Human Trafficking Watch List Human Development achievements noted by UN notwithstanding

2014 Jan 16

By Lynn Ockersz

The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 2013 has placed Sri Lanka in what is described as its Tier 2 Watch List. Tier 2 countries comprise those ‘countries whose governments do not fully comply with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.’

The US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which compiles the relevant report, describes Tier 2 Watch List countries as embodying the above features AND (emphasis in original information bulletin) the following :

(a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing

(b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or

(c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.

The TVPA defines a Human Trafficking victim ‘as a person induced to perform labour or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion. Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of Human Trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion was present.’

Tier 1 countries are those whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, while Tier 3 countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

Interestingly, the placing of Sri Lanka on the above Watch List coincides with the UNDP, in its Human Development Report 2013, placing Sri Lanka among what are described as High Human Development Countries. This country’s Human Development Index is currently 0.715. Offences such as Human Trafficking are generally not seen as conspicuous in countries noted for achievements in the area of Human Development.

The Principal Deputy Director of the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Nan Kennelly who was in this country last week for talks on matters relating to Human Trafficking with state officials and others, at a meeting with the press pointed out that Human Trafficking needed to be differentiated from Human Smuggling. They are not synonymous with each other.

Accordingly, Human Trafficking is defined as: ‘Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labour or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

Human Smuggling is defined as the importation of people into the United States involving deliberate evasion of immigration laws. This offense includes bringing illegal aliens into the US as well as the unlawful transportation and harbouring of aliens already in the US.

Kennelly pointed out, however, that Human Trafficking is prevalent in almost every country, including the US.

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The US State Department building

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