5 Things to Know About the U.S. Human Trafficking Report

By Travis Wussow
Jul 29, 2015

On Monday, July 27, the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which analyzes the extent to which 188 countries (including the U.S.) combat human trafficking and slavery. Each country is scored — Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3 — based on what the country is doing to fight human trafficking.

There are 31 countries on the Tier 1 list: those countries that do the best job of fighting and preventing human trafficking within their borders.

This year, 18 countries were upgraded, and 18 countries were downgraded. There are now 23 countries on the Tier 3 list, which means that the country does not comply with the minimum standards for protection against human trafficking and that the country is not making significant efforts to do so.

The entire report can be found at the State Department’s website, but here are five things you need to know about this report:

1. The Trafficking in Persons Report has real consequences for countries on the Tier 3 list.

In addition to the stigma associated with being designated a Tier 3 country, there can be significant financial consequences for countries placed on the Tier 3 list. First, the President has the authority to withhold non-humanitarian aid. Second, some countries on the Tier 3 list are not eligible to participate in educational and cultural exchange programs. Third, an amendment made to the Trade Promotion Authority Act states that the President cannot enter into a fast-track trade with a country on the Tier 3 list.

2. Thailand remains on the Tier 3 list for a second year.

The New York Times released a major article detailing slavery in the Thai fishing industry. The article follows the stories of several men trafficked into the industry, including Lang Long:

Many of them, like Mr. Long, are lured across the border by traffickers only to become so-called sea slaves in floating labor camps. Often they are beaten for the smallest transgressions, like stitching a torn net too slowly or mistakenly placing a mackerel into a bucket for herring, according to a United Nations survey of about 50 Cambodian men and boys sold to Thai fishing boats. Of those interviewed in the 2009 survey, 29 said they had witnessed their captain or other officers kill a worker.

3. Malaysia was upgraded from the Tier 3 list to the Tier 2 Watch List.

Malaysia was upgraded from the Tier 3 list to the Tier 2 Watch list, although many human rights groups have criticized this decision. Sen. Robert Mendendez (D-N.J.) criticized Malaysia’s upgrade, arguing that the upgrade was not based on actual changes on the ground but rather was done to pave the way for a fast-track trade deal with the Southeast Asian country.

In a statement, Sen. Menendez said, “The administration has turned its back on the victims of trafficking, turned a blind eye to the facts, and ignored the calls from Congress, leading human rights advocates, and Malaysian government officials to preserve the integrity of this important report.”

4. Ghana was downgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List, but is the first recipient of a Child Protection Compact Partnership.

This year, Ghana was downgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List. The report’s narrative highlights labor trafficking, particularly of children, in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, portering, artisanal gold mining, quarrying, herding and agriculture industries.

However, Ghana is the recipient of the very first Child Protection Compact Partnership, which will provide $5 million in funding to combat human trafficking of children. This first grant is an important step forward for the Trafficking in Persons Office in assisting countries that are seeking to fight human trafficking within their borders.

International Justice Mission, a Christian non-governmental organization that fights human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor, opened an office in Ghana in 2014 and this year rescued 10 boys who were held in slavery in the fishing industry on Lake Volta.

5. Saudi Arabia was upgraded from the Tier 3 list to the Tier 2 Watch List.

Saudi Arabia was pulled up from the Tier 3 list this year. The report states that although the Kingdom does not meet the minimum standards for elimination of human trafficking, “it is making significant efforts to do so.” According to the State Department, the Saudi government has made progress in prosecution of offenders and protection of victims.

However, the situation for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia remains problematic. According to the report, “non-payment of wages is the most common complaint from foreign workers in the Kingdom, while employers’ withholding of workers’ passports remains widespread.” Troublingly, the Kingdom did not seek punishment for any employers for passport withholding.


This year’s report contains a lot of good news for the poor around the world today. But according to the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index, there are a staggering 35.8 million people held in slavery today. Look for opportunities to partner with one of the many great organizations combating this evil in the world today as we at the ERLC will highlight some of those organizations and opportunities. And please join us in praying for those that are held in slavery: His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

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