Washington — Survivors of human trafficking must be given the opportunity “to move past what they endured and make the most of their potential,” says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Speaking at the State Department June 19 at an event marking the release of the department's 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, Clinton said: “Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life. And our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it’s getting a good job to send money home to support a family, trying to get an education for oneself or one’s children, or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life.“
The annual report, which tracks how human trafficking is handled in 186 countries and territories — including the United States — emphasizes proven and innovative practices for protecting victims via psychological support for victims, immigration laws to protect migrant victims and training for labor inspectors to recognize trafficking, Clinton said.
According to the State Department, there are some 27 million people around the world who are enslaved for labor or for the sex industry. Statistics provided by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization estimate that 55 percent of forced labor victims are women or girls, as are 98 percent of sex trafficking victims.
Maria Otero, the under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, said the United States is working with other governments to strengthen judicial systems, build strong law enforcement capacities, help protect individual citizens and combat trafficking in persons.
Fighting modern slavery, Otero said, is a priority for the United States because trafficking challenges the most fundamental human rights of freedom and dignity for every individual. “Trafficking also tears at the very fabric of society,” she said. “It rips families apart. It devastates communities. It holds people back from becoming full participants in their own political processes in their own economies. And it challenges the ability of countries to build strong justice systems and transparent governments. “
In his written remarks in this year’s report, the State Department's ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons, Luis CdeBaca, noted that “some governments are treating victims as criminals or ignoring them entirely.” He called upon governments not to shirk their responsibility to bring traffickers to justice and help victims recover.
This year’s report explains that traffickers “use coercive tactics and force to make their victims feel worthless and emotionally imprisoned. As a result, victims can lose their sense of identity and security.”
“A variety of psychological symptoms can surface over a period of time even after victims escape or are rescued from the trafficking environment,” the report says. “Thus, it is critically important to incorporate psychological support and treatment within victims’ services and protocols.”
Among the recommendations the report makes:
• Provide victims with shelters but do not detain them there. Victims should have freedom of movement.
• Victims should be informed of their rights as early as possible in a language they understand.
• Victims should be given the choice of how much of their information is shared.
• Governments should offer victims permanent residency and the right to work. Benefits — rather than forced deportation — facilitate the law enforcement process, the report says.
The report also cautions governments not to confuse trafficking, in which victims are coerced, with illegal immigration.
“Authorities often fail to look beneath the surface for possible indicators of forced labor, debt bondage or sex trafficking,” the report says. It is the traffickers, not the trafficking victims, who are the criminals, the report says.
The full report is available at the State Department website.