EXCLUSIVE: The U.S. government is identifying nearly 20 countries for their dismal records on — and refusal to confront – human trafficking, according to a government report obtained by Fox News.
The Trafficking in Persons Report for the 2019 fiscal year names Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and Venezuela, among several others, as Tier 3 countries for failing to meet federal human trafficking standards and “are not making significant efforts to do so.” Nineteen countries now fall into that category as the report downgraded Afghanistan to a Tier 3 nation.
On China, the report — which is being released Thursday – notes the mass arbitrary detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang, China. "Authorities also expanded the campaign into other provinces, began implementing it among other religious minorities, and sought the coerced repatriation and internment of religious and ethnic minorities living abroad,” it says.
North Korea is cited throughout the report for using “proceeds from state-sponsored forced labor to fund government functions, as well as other illicit activity.”
In Iran, the report details a “policy or pattern of recruiting and using child soldiers, and a pattern of government officials perpetrating sex trafficking of adults and children with impunity.”
For the first time since 2012, a country in Africa joined the report’s upper echelon as Namibia ascended to Tier 1 for working with the U.S. to improve its human trafficking record.
In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security opened 20 percent more cases into human trafficking last year than it did the year before, according to the report.
“President Trump and the Administration are deeply committed to continuing the U.S. Government’s work to end human trafficking in all of its evil forms and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Ivanka Trump, an adviser to the president, in a statement.
Though the report also notes the federal government “prosecuted fewer cases and secured convictions against fewer traffickers, issued fewer victims trafficking-specific immigration benefits, and did not adequately screen vulnerable populations for human trafficking indicators.”
A White House official cited lengthy prosecution timelines, the need for victim willingness to pursue cases and prosecutions by state and local officials as reasons for a drop in federal prosecutions. “The federal government administration has worked tremendously hard to build capacity of state and local law enforcement so that they can join this effort to prosecute these cases,” according to the official.
Officials also cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2018 takedown of backpage.com, which the Justice Department identified then as the “Internet’s leading forum for prostitution ads.” It was also a main source of law enforcement leads into trafficking cases, according to officials.
“We’re really pleased that despite the fact that that Backpage was taken down, the investigative community law enforcement was able to overcome that challenge and increase investigation,” said the official.
The White House is also highlighting increased funding for victim services, particularly those targeted at child victims.