Washington — Thursday’s Biden administration warned of possible US sanctions, designating 17 countries not doing enough to combat trafficking. The administration also called on several US allies and friends, including Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Turkey, for retreating their efforts.
This designation appears in the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, which cited the coronavirus pandemic as the cause of the surge in trafficking between 2020 and 2021. There is a risk of exploitation and has distracted some governments from efforts to prevent trafficking.
The report covers 17 authoritarian countries, as it does not meet the minimum standards to prevent what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the “inhumane cycle of discrimination and injustice.” Classified as “Tier 3”. This designation means that without the presidential exemption, these countries could lose US aid, but no decision on such penalties will be made until later this year.
New entrants in the Tier 3 category are Malaysia and Guinea-Bissau. Both were on the downgrade watchlist for three years and were not eligible to circumvent the designation as they did not take steps to improve their anti-trafficking efforts.
They have joined Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma, China, Comoros, Cuba, Eritria, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Venezuela in the worst criminal category. Most of these countries are already subject to US sanctions for other reasons.
Meanwhile, six important US partners and friends in Cyprus, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland have been downgraded from the top Tier 1 category to Tier 2. That is, it does not meet international standards for combating trafficking, but an important effort to do so. There is no penalty for specifying Tier 2.
Israel was cited as retreating a “serious and lasting” initiative to combat trafficking. This includes a reduction in perpetrator investigations and prosecutions, and a serious shortage of personnel in the only authority directly responsible for handling the matter.
The report states that New Zealand, a U.S. treaty ally, has “significantly weakened its deterrence, weakened its efforts to hold traffickers accountable, and failed to adequately address the nature of crime,” the report said. Said he did not begin imprisonment for child traffickers.
The report criticized NATO’s ally Norway for not prosecuting trafficking cases during the reporting period and prosecuting suspected criminals for fewer crimes. NATO member Portugal was beaten for failing to improve victim identification and lack of legal safeguards to protect trafficking victims.
And in the first such criticism of NATO’s allies, Turkey was specifically cited for providing “operations, equipment, and financial support” to Syrian armed militias recruiting child soldiers. Fourteen other countries, including Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, could be attacked with the same designation, resulting in the loss of US military training support.