Top Countries for Human Trafficking

Human trafficking statistics are compelling. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking suggests that each day there are an estimated 2.5 million people living in conditions of forced labor, including 270,000 in industrialized countries. Seventy percent of all trafficked persons are women and children and the average age between 18 and 24 years; 1.2 million are children. More importantly, of these women and children, an alarming number are not used for manual labor at all, but subjected to the brutalization of forced commercial sexual exploitation. The situation is dire.

Human trafficking continues in part because of the many different kinds. For example, in West Africa forced labor is the primary cause of human trafficking, which is also the case for 35% of all persons trafficked in Western and Central Europe and Central and Eastern Asia. In the Caribbean trafficking is largely for sexual exploitation. And trafficking for organ removal has been traced to Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. It also continues because countries refuse to take action.

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The US State Department has constructed a three tier system to identify countries working to end the problem and those countries that are not. Tier 1 are countries that are compliant with and signed on to international agreements. Canada and the United States are on this list.

The Tier 2 list of 55 countries do not fully comply but are making efforts to improve their compliance. Countries in this group include Myanmar, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Mauritania, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Honduras, Tunisia and Venezuela. Tier 2 Watch List includes countries that need to step up compliance; China and Russia are two examples.

Tier 3 countries refuse to meet minimum compliance standards and many are located in the heart of the worst areas for human trafficking, Africa and the Middle East. The 17 countries are: Libya, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Kuwait, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and added to the list this past summer, Syria. These countries have been sanctioned by the United States and are now prohibited from receiving specific military aid.

The scope of the problem though is mind boggling. Even though many countries are enacting legislation the conviction rates remain in the range of 1.5 per 100,000. The traffickers, largely men but increasingly women too, have little to fear given enforcement abilities and conviction rates.

Human trafficking statistics are evidence that much more must be done. Last April UN General Secretary Al-Nasser asked all member states to increase their efforts to end this abuse and thereby affirm international human rights. We must ensure that they do.

Patrick Whalen is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @2patwhalen.

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