Four million ‘trapped in global slave trade’


The United States said today that up to four million people had been bought and sold in the international slave trade in the last year, and accused 19 countries of doing to little to stamp it out.

In its annual Trafficking in Personsreport, the US State Department added Afghanistan, Armenia, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Iran and the Kyrgyz Republic to a blacklist of states it blames for making insufficient efforts to combat the scourge. The list also includes Russia and Saudi Arabia.

"Every year an estimated 700,000 to four million people around the world are victimised by traffickers through fraud, coercion and outright kidnapping," said Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell.

"The overwhelming majority of victims are women and children. Traffickers often force them into pornography and prostitution, subjecting them to terrible mental and physical abuse and putting them at risk from devastating diseases, such as HIV-AIDS."

The report, which includes input from various US government agencies, NGOs and embassies overseas, said that some people are trafficked to supply the international sex trade in prostitution and sex tourism.

Others find themselves working in appalling conditions for low pay in sweatshops, construction or agriculture.

The report groups countries in three tiers based on the 89 governments' efforts to combat trafficking, as defined by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act 2000. Some countries are not included owing to a lack of reliable data.

The law defines trafficking as an offence in which a person is forced, coerced or transported to commit a sex act, or to indulge in forced labour or provision of services.

Countries named include Afghanistan, Armenia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Romania, Israel, Albania, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Yugoslavia are named as their governments do not fully comply with the Act but are trying to do so, the report said.

Governments were assessed on whether they vigorously investigate acts of trafficking, protect victims, and adopt measures to prevent trafficking and cooperate with other countries to cut down on the trade in humans.

They are also held up for scrutiny on the extent to which they extradite traffickers, monitor immigration patterns for evidence of trafficking and prosecute public officials caught in the trafficking trade.