US human trafficking report to strain China, Russia ties

US human trafficking report to strain China, Russia ties

US human trafficking report to strain China, Russia ties

AFP Photo

An annual U.S. State Department report on June 19 cited Russia and China as among the world’s worst offenders in fighting forced labor and sex trafficking, which could lead to U.S. sanctions. The U.S.
designation drops Russia and China, which are already often at odds with Washington, in the same category as North Korea and Iran.

The State Department ranks countries according to the efforts they make to fight human trafficking and Russia, China and Uzbekistan all fell to the lowest level, Tier 3, in the new report. While the Chinese government has taken some steps to address the problem, such as vowing to work with international organizations and increasing public awareness, it also has continued to perpetuate the problem in hundreds of its own institutions, the State Department report said.

The report said China’s one-child policy and preference for sons has led to fewer women in the country, thus increasing demand for women as brides or prostitutes. In Russia, the government “had not established any concrete system for the identification or care of trafficking victims, lacking any formal victim identification and referral mechanism,” although there were some “ad hoc efforts,” the report said.

The citation is likely to further strain the complicated relations between the United States and the two countries, which have already been strained by the handling of the civil war in Syria and cyber security, among other issues.

President Barack Obama now has 90 days to determine whether to apply sanctions against China, Russia, Uzbekistan and 18 other governments given a “Tier 3” ranking. The president can block various types of aid, such as arms financing, grants for cultural and educational exchange programs and could withdraw U.S. support for loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. That appears unlikely in the cases of China, Russia and Uzbekistan, which have strategic importance for Washington.

Obama is looking to cooperate more closely with emerging Asian superpower China after meeting its leader Xi Jinping last week; he already faces growing friction with Russia over its support for the Assad regime in war-wracked Syria; and the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan is important as a transit point as the U.S. pulls out its military from Afghanistan.

Turkey at medium level

Turkey was classed as belonging to Tier 2, the medium level countries in fighting human trafficking and forced labor according to the report. “The Turkish government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report said.

The significant improvements of the Turkish government in its efforts to convict and sentence trafficking offenders under Turkey’s anti-trafficking laws was underlined in the report. Courts’ reduction of the rate of acquittals for trafficking defendants was also highlighted. However, “many traffickers were ultimately convicted of lesser crimes with more lenient sentences,” the report indicated.

“While the government identified several hundred trafficking victims, the protection it offered victims declined, in part because shelters were closed due to a lack of funding,” the report stressed. Turkey was advised to ratify comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and to establish a comprehensive, victim-centered framework for assistance to trafficking victims with stable funding and institutionalized partnerships with NGOs.