MR. VENTRELL: Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining the call. Today, we’re doing a call with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who is our Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. He’s going to talk to you today a little bit about our annual report. This call is on the record, but it is embargoed until the Secretary finishes rolling out the report at approximately 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, so when he finishes speaking this afternoon. But this is to give you some context, and as you work to write your stories, to give you our experts in advance.
So without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to the Ambassador for some opening remarks, and then we’ll take some questions. So, Ambassador, over to you.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you, Patrick, and thanks, everybody for calling in. This afternoon, the Secretary of State, as Patrick said, will be launching this year’s human trafficking report and hosting the ceremony for the folks who have been designated as the anti-trafficking heroes by the United States this year. We’re joined by almost every one of the heroes. Only one was unable to attend this year. And it’s an amazing group of folks that range from workers, advocates, and NGOs who are out there in the hinterlands literally rescuing children from enslavement, to police officers who are the ones who are going through the door and getting out the people from this tragic situation.
One thing that I’d like to highlight just very quickly about the heroes, that two of the heroes, the prosecutor and police officer from Nicaragua, Officer Juan Victoriano Ruiz a few weeks ago, I think, was responsible for the apprehension of one of the folks on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, which I think a number of outlets covered at the time, a pretty notorious child pornography suspect who was at large over the last few years. And so we see with both him and with Detective Katrin Gluic from Croatia, who – among the many victims who she’s helped from her role in the organized crime police, she rescued an American citizen last year, a classic case of a young woman who thought that she had an opportunity for a good job there in Croatia and traveled and found herself in the clutches of the human traffickers.
Sadly, the things that we see with the TIP Report heroes and the bravery that we see of those heroes is something that we see around the world with about 27 million – up to 27 million, by some estimates, people being enslaved here in the modern day. We have some successes that we are going to be highlighting in the report this year. One of those successes is that the number of global convictions of human traffickers is up about 20 percent. We were able to identify 4,746 conventions – excuse me, convictions in the last year. That’s continuing an upward trend from 2012. And as well, a continuation of an upward trend in the number of victims that are identified to about 46,500.
Now, unfortunately, if you – and I became a lawyer and a diplomat so as to not do math, but 46,000 identified victims in a world in which up to 27 million people are enslaved shows the depth of the challenge that’s ahead of us. We see this in a year in which President Obama has taken a personal stance on this with his major speech in New York during United Nations week in front of the attendees of the Clinton Global Initiative, raising this with foreign leaders in, say, for instance, in Thailand, in Burma, in Cambodia, with African leaders when they came to the White House, et cetera. And it’s something that we’ve seen a lot of effort and a lot of attention to from our White House colleagues, perhaps most notably, before she left, Samantha Power from the multilateral shop over at the White House, who we hope will be able to continue to work on this in a subsequent role.
One of the things that we’ve seen over this last year with the United States Government’s recommitment and new approaches is the recognition of the need for government to act – for government to act on victim identification, for governments to act even on our own role in this issue. And so what do I mean by that? Well, easily, victim identification as being something that a government has a responsibility to do. That, in fact, is the theme of this year’s report, the notion of – that victim identification is the first step in stopping modern slavery. In fact, everything that we do has to be driven by the notion of finding and helping these people. As Secretary Kerry said when he was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to spot it and stop it.
So what do we see with that? Well, in the United States this last year, we see the directive from the President for those of us in the interagency process, which Secretary Kerry chairs, to work on a victim services strategy for the United States. And we are currently in the public comment period of that victim services strategy which was penned by the Departments of Homeland – excuse me, of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Labor, working together with Homeland Security, State and others. And we were happy to see that we got almost 1,000 comments from the nongovernmental organizations, the advocates, the service providers, the immigrant rights groups, and others whose clients, whose folks who they serve, are suffering from this heinous crime. And we’re encouraging other countries as well to step up victim identification.
And we’ve seen that; we’ve seen some successes. For instance, the Government of Cyprus added a forensic psychologist to its anti-trafficking police unit so that they would have the capacity to do those sensitive interviews in identifying and investigating trafficking victims. As a result, all of the victims that they identified in Cyprus during the reporting period agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, which is unheard of. Usually, victims are so scared they don’t know who to trust, and even the helping hand that is given to them is something that they’re nervous about.
So to another example from out in the field: In Latvia, by doubling the funding for victim services in the last three years, not surprisingly, we see more than a doubling of the number of victims identified and, more importantly, helped.
Now, there’s a couple of other things that we’re doing, and then I’ll move on to what’s happening around the world in this report. Probably the most important thing that the United States Government has done in the last year is the issuance of President Obama’s Executive Order on Human Trafficking which makes us – directs us to look at government procurement, recognizing that the government is one of the largest consumers in the country and recognizing that many of the things that we were looking at purchasing, whether it’s goods or services, through our government procurement standards, that neither we nor the companies that were selling those things to us were able to say what does the supply chain look like. And I think that that’s one of the things that, in the wake of the tragedies in Bangladesh, in the wake of some of the other high-profile scandals out of a number of factories around the world, it is not simply the large American companies that have responsibilities to look at the supply chain, but President Obama feels strongly that we, in the government, have a responsibility.
So we’re working with the Office of the Procurement Executive over in the White House so that we can come up with standards, so that we can come up with best practices and that we can work with the contracting community to make sure that neither contractors nor the goods that we procure are tainted by modern slavery.
Now, a quick tour through this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report. As I said, we’re launching it this afternoon, 188 countries that, going forward, we’re going to be looking at through the minimum standards of the Trafficking in Persons Report. Now, the 11 minimum standards of the Trafficking in Persons Report were formulated by Congress starting in the year 2000 with the passage of the TVPA. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was really a response to a couple of different things: the growing understanding of the exploitation and abuse going on around the world; the need for victim care, immigration services, immigration benefits; but also a psychosocial response to the trafficking victims’ plight. And as well, a need to update our post-Civil War anti-slavery statutes for the modern era to be able to incorporate in things like Stockholm syndrome and battered women syndrome, the notion of dependency, why doesn’t the victim run away when they get a chance, all of those modern things.
And what we’ve seen is countries around the world over the last 13 years adopting laws not unlike the American law. So, laws that set up interagency processes, whether it’s chaired here in the United States by the Secretary of State or whether it’s chaired in many countries by the minister of interior or even a deputy prime minister, those interagency processes are really what’s driving this cross-cutting issue.
As a result, we see – as I said, in 188 countries in the world that we were able to look at this year – we see 30 countries which have achieved what we call Tier 1 on the report, and that’s a country that, while certainly not having solved the trafficking problem – no country has – those are countries that are meeting those minimum standards.
What are the minimum standards? It’s pretty easy. Is this illegal? Is holding someone in a condition of compelled service a crime? Is the punishment for that commensurate with other serious offenses like rape, kidnapping and extortion? Are there protections for the victims? Are there alternatives to deportation if the victim is a foreign victim? Is there prevention efforts going on on the part of the government?
And again, as we said, these are minimum standards. And so even the United States, who is one of those Tier 3 countries – excuse me, one of those Tier 1 countries – even the United States has a long way to go. And I think that what we’ve dedicated ourselves to doing is to looking at the needs of each tier. The Tier 1 countries, while doing an adequate job, need to sharpen victim identification, need to make sure that victims are able to walk on their path to the new life that they deserve. The Tier 2 countries, countries that are doing a lot but haven’t quite gotten there yet, this year there’s 92 of them. Those countries often are doing cases, maybe have some shelters and some victim protection in place, but don’t necessarily have long-term programs for victim rehabilitation, don’t necessarily have robust and proactive law enforcement that’s going out and really putting a dent in this.
Now, the Tier Two Watch List was originally created a few – some years back, I think it was in 2003, 2004, certainly before my time here at the State Department – in order to basically warn countries that they were on a downward trajectory. The “watch” in watch list literally is, “Watch out, you might be on your way to Tier 3.” This year, there are 44 countries on the Tier 2 Watch List. And then there’s Tier 3, which is the countries that are found by law not to be taking the affirmative steps necessary to fight human trafficking. And this year, there are 21 countries in that status.
This is the first year in which a law from 2008 has come into effect. That law was concerned that countries were sitting on Tier 2 Watch List and that maybe some countries were getting comfortable being on Tier 2 Watch List, doing a minimum amount, not really doing all that much, not on the upward trajectory of a Tier 2 or a Tier 1 country. And so in 2008, in legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorization of 2008, which was sponsored by Chris Smith and others on the House side and sponsored by then-Senator Biden on the Senate side, moved to limit the number of years on which a country could be on Tier 2 Watch List. There is a waiver provision if a country has a written plan and resources dedicated towards meeting the concerns that are raised by the minimum standards in the American report, that we would be able to maintain them on that Watch List. But those waivers were only available for two years.
So this year, the 2013 report represents the first year in which the waiver possibility for a plan of action and resources is no longer available. And there were six countries that were facing that situation in this year’s report. Those six countries are Azerbaijan, Iraq, the Congo, Russia, China, and Uzbekistan.
In looking at those countries, applying the facts to the law, it was apparent that two – excuse me, that three of those countries, Azerbaijan, the Congo, and Iraq – that we’d seen quite a bit of progress. For the first time now in Iraq, a new law having been passed, an anti-trafficking unit being established in the Ministry of Interior, even going back and going into the women’s prisons and screening people who had been convicted of other offenses, identifying 16 victims through that method and being able to get them out of prison, where they’d been unjustly punished.
In Azerbaijan, the first-ever forced labor prosecutions; an understanding and an increased commitment on the part of the government to address this. In the Congo, a country where, as most people who have been to Brazzaville will testify to, the reach of law enforcement, the reach of rule of law does not go that far outside of capital, and yet we were able to see for the first time active law enforcement responses in that country, with traffickers actually being brought to justice.
And so on those three countries, we saw a rise in the tier ranking on the merits to Tier 2, off of the Watch List. In the other countries that were subject to this provision for the first time, the automatic downgrade provision, of China, Russia, and Uzbekistan, we didn’t see that same kind of forward progress. We continue to have concerns about victim care and the need for more aggressive victim identification and assistance. For instance, in Russia – in China, the national plan of action that recently came out gives us, I think, a good path forward. It came out, however, in April, which is after the reporting year ended, and was not able to be credited in this year’s report. And plans of action and promises of future action on the part of a government are something that is typically credited as part of a Tier 2 Watch List designation, which, as I mentioned earlier, was no longer available to China for this year.
We look forward to working with the Chinese and others on this national plan of action. We come across Chinese victims here in the United States, and our embassies actually come across Chinese victims in countries around the world. And we have gone out of our way to help them, to make sure that they are safe, make sure that they have a voice in the process. And we’ll continue to work with the Chinese Government on seeing the results that will hopefully come out of that national plan of action.
And finally, Uzbekistan. As many of you may be familiar with, there’s been an ongoing issue in Uzbekistan with the government’s direct involvement in this problem: the mobilization of children and adults into forced labor in the cotton harvest each fall. This is something that we’ve raised with Uzbekistan in a number of fora. It’s something that Assistant Secretary Bob Blake has been working very hard on. And while we’ve seen a little bit of movement on the part of the Uzbekistanis, we at the same time have not seen the International Labor Organization and other credible monitors being brought in to work on this issue of the cotton harvest, to be able to monitor the harvest and make sure that the school children and others who have been – who get taken out and put into the fields at – under coercion each year for the cotton harvest are no longer having those privileges taken away, are no longer being forced to work in that situation.
And so while we’re heartened to see that there’s the preliminary conversations between the Uzbek Government and the International Labor Organization, again, we’re looking for results. The report is something that we very much have to see results in order to have increases in ranking in order to be able to be fully credited.
I will say one last thing about the auto-downgrade provision, and that is that next year we have 25 countries that have been on the Tier 2 Watch List for more than two years, and therefore would be subject to the 2008 law that I mentioned. I won’t list all 25 of them, but what we do realize is that a good number of them have the possibility of a waiver if they come up with a written plan and commitments of resources towards carrying out that plan to meet the minimum standards. And we will work with those governments over the coming year to figure out what support the United States can give, whether it’s foreign assistance, whether it’s training and technical assistance, cooperative law enforcement, or what have you, so that we can hopefully achieve the change that the TVPA looks for, the positive change in those countries.
Six of those countries, however, are not going to be waiveable next year. They are in the same circumstance as we saw with the countries that I was talking about a few minutes ago. Next year’s automatic downgrade countries in which a waiver is not available are Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, Malaysia, the Maldives, and Thailand. And those are countries that we will be engaging with quickly to make sure that we have results on the ground, that we have a good focused response on the U.S. side so that we can walk with those countries toward hopefully results that we can credit going forward.
I think that that’s by and large where I’ll stop for the moment. This will be Secretary Kerry’s first Trafficking in Persons Report to be released, and I think that it very much ties in with his own experiences. This is a man who has, as the head of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office back in the late 1970s, was one of the first prosecutors in the country to get the federal grants to do victim work within the prosecution service, to make sure that victims had a voice in the courtrooms. Those were victims of domestic violence and sexual violence, but that’s really what we’re building on here: the notion that a man who is liberated from a brick kiln or who is liberated from a farm should be able to have a voice in the process after that; the notion that a girl taken out of a brothel or a woman taken out of a domestic service situation where she’s been abused should be treated fairly throughout the justice system.
Those flow pretty directly from that first grant that John Kerry was able to do in the late 1970s, setting up what we in the law enforcement community call the victim-witness coordinators – that’s victim-hyphen-witness coordinators – in both police and prosecutors’ offices. And so I think he’s come full circle now as far as being able to see 30 years later the lessons of the folks that were on the frontlines in the fight against sexual violence, domestic violence, trying to give a voice to women and others who had been excluded from the system decades ago. Now we’re able to take that fight globally, and that’s the U.S. commitment. And I think that with John Kerry in the lead, we’re in very good hands.
So I think we’ll take some questions. I’ve only got, I think, about 10 or 15 minutes. I apologize for having such a long opening statement, but like I said, there’s 20 to 27 million people that have suffered this every year and so as a result we have a lot to say about it. I look forward to questions.
MR. VENTRELL: Operator, can we go ahead and get the first question?
OPERATOR: Yes, definitely. As a reminder, you may ask questions by pressing * and then 1 today. You should hear your tone indicating that you’ve been placed in the queue. Again, the command is * and then 1. It will be a moment for our first question.
And thank you callers. Again, you may press * then 1 on your phone at this time.
MR. VENTRELL: Operator, are we able to get a question?
OPERATOR: Yes. Thank you. Our first question is from the line of Nicole Gaouette with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Ambassador. Thanks for doing this call. I just have a technical question. I’m sorry. I didn’t quite understand the Tier 2 Watch List and no waiver process. Can you just go through that again, how long a country can stay on the list and what happens if they are or are not making the improvements you’re looking for?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: All right. So the way that the law from 2008 reads is that a country can only be on Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years. And in the third year, if it hasn’t made progress on the merits such that it would be raised up to Tier 2 on the report, then it should be found to not be making the significant efforts and be rated as a Tier 3. There is an exception to that, and that is that a country – that the Secretary of State can waive that if the country has a written plan to address the deficiencies and resources to carry out that plan that has been identified and pledged.
And what we’ve seen is that a number of countries have exactly those things. And so countries have been getting these waivers and not being dropped down immediately to Tier 3. So in effect, there’s a couple of years on the report, and then up to two years in which a Tier 2 Watch List country that’s kind of stagnated can be given waivers, if there’s this action plan type of process. But after the second year, the waivers are unavailable, and that’s where we are now. That’s one of the reasons why the law that was passed in late 2008 that really came into effect in early 2009 – why this is the first year in which those waivers are unavailable.
QUESTION: Okay. So presumably some of the Tier 2 countries have moved up to Tier 1?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, this year Armenia was the Tier 2 country that moved up to Tier 1. And we saw that on the basis of increased training, increased prosecution, increased victim identification, and quite a bit of political will on the part of the Armenian Government.
On the other hand, we also saw a few Tier 1 countries fall down to Tier 2. This is something that we always are concerned about, is that Tier 1 is not a reprieve, it’s a responsibility. And so you can’t rest on your laurels and expect to stay on Tier 1. And the countries that came off of Tier 1 because of that weakening of their response were Croatia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Mauritius.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just follow up and ask the six countries that were on the Watch List, you said that – I’m just scrolling up in my notes – sorry. There were three that – Russia, China, and Uzbekistan were – have been demoted to Tier 3. Is that right?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: That’s correct.
QUESTION: And the other three – have they been moved from the Watch List then just to Tier 2?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: That’s correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay. And you mentioned political will in the context of Armenia. I’m just wondering, demoting Russia and China – it’s hard to – it’s hard not to see that in a political context. And I’m just wondering if you’ve informed those governments of their demotion and if you’ve had any response.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, what happens is, as kind of contemporaneous to letting you guys know and doing the rollout event this afternoon, we’re also notifying our foreign counterparts. Typically that ends up being in capital, the folks from our embassies going out and working with their people locally. So I can’t really speak to any particular discussions with any particular countries.
But we have had an ongoing dialogue with Russia, with China, with Uzbekistan – to use the three that were subject to the auto-downgrade provisions this year – and have raised these concerns, have found areas in which that we can work together, whether it’s some joint law enforcement cases with Russia and with China, whether it’s having good conversations about the need to come into compliance with international norms with Uzbekistan and others.
And we trust that the relationship with these countries is a mature relationship. This is one of many issues with which we deal with these governments. And while sometimes it can – these truths can be hard to tell and hard to hear, at the same time that we need to have an accurate and respectful dialogue with them on what can be done and what needs to be done.
QUESTION: Thanks. I just want to ask one more question, and that is with respect to government procurement. Did you find any examples of government contractors or subcontractors engaging in forced labor or any kind of modern form of slavery?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, it’s certainly something that there’s been reporting on, good reporting, over the last years in The New Yorker and other folks who’ve taken a look at this, whether it’s in missions overseas as far as folks that are following a deployment or other things, enough so over the last 10 years, heck, starting with the Kosovo and with the Balkans wars, it’s to the point where they even made a movie with, what, Rachel Weisz, I think, about that. And so that notion of this being a problem, whether it’s as part of a peacekeeper delegation, whether it’s as part of government service contracts, et cetera, I think that there’s a fairly good body of evidence that this is an issue out there, and that just because the consumer is a government doesn’t mean that the traffickers won’t somehow infiltrate the supply chain, the traffickers won’t somehow be in the middle of that. So we want to make sure that we have vigilance in that.
And one of the most effective pieces of reporting on – certainly on the supply chain side is from your counterparts over at Bloomberg Business Week, that piece that they did last year that actually traced the fish all the way from particular boats in which Indonesian men were being enslaved in the New Zealand Antarctic all the way to Whole Foods, P.F. Chang’s, et cetera here in the U.S. It’s that type of reporting that actually is going to help us to figure out where the risks are and where the weak points in the supply chain are. And I encourage you and your colleagues to continue shining a light on that. It does make a big difference.
QUESTION: (Audio interruption) government contractors or subcontractors in this year’s report?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Excuse me?
QUESTION: I haven’t actually had a chance to look at this section, but I’m wondering, in the section about the U.S., did you find examples of government contractors or subcontractors using forced labor this year?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: No. This year’s report, I don’t think has any of those circumstances in it as far as the U.S. narrative is concerned. But I think certainly the response to that, to start to make sure that we’re addressing those things, is something that we very much are looking at. And if there are cases that are uncovered – hopefully, there will be cases that are prevented from happening going forward. And we’ll see that, I think – as we implement and as we step up the efforts with the executive order from last fall, I think you’ll start to see more of that in the report.
We’ve seen one other government – just so you know, one other government announcing that they were going to do the same thing, and that is the Government of Australia is going to be starting to look at their government procurement. So I think that it’s kind of like when you or other consumers start looking for the fair trade label. We’re starting to do that same type of analysis with our purchasing.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We’ll now take a question from the line of Howard LaFranchi with Christian Science Monitor.
QUESTION: Hi, yeah. Thanks for doing this. Yeah, my question too was about countries that it wasn’t clear, to me anyway, countries that had dropped to Tier 3. So thanks, Nicole, for asking that.
But I also wanted – Mr. Ambassador, you mentioned that Thailand was among the countries that faces – it sounded like, faces – next year would end the – reach the end of waiver possibility and could fall to Tier 3. Is that correct?
You also mentioned that – earlier that I think Thailand was one of the countries that – specifically that President Obama addressed this issue. Is this is an example? I mean, if a country like Thailand isn’t addressing it, what does this say? I mean, is it just too profitable? I mean, we can imagine. We know the stories that we hear about, whether it’s sexual tourism or whatever. Is it just too profitable for them to take the steps to address this? Or why would a country like Thailand not respond?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think Thailand is an interesting issue. I think a lot of folks came to the human trafficking issue about 15 years ago. In many ways, it was Thailand and specifically the flight of the hill tribe girls from up north, in sex slavery in the tourist zones, that caught a lot of people’s attention when we were first putting together the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in the late 1990s. But I think with time, what we’ve seen is a much more nuanced anti-trafficking profile in Thailand, with it being a source country and a destination country with folks in labor as well as sex, so everything from fishing, agriculture, textiles, domestic servants.
The notion of the Thai fishing fleet has been something that we’ve been raising more and more as we’ve come to realize that there is just so much abuse out on those boats. I think it was a United Nations intelligence project that came out a couple years ago with some research – they interviewed a bunch of Cambodian men who had escaped from the boats, and over half of them had seen one of their fellow crewmembers murdered by the captains. And I think that there’s just that level of abuse that we see.
It’s about closing the zones of impunity, whether the zone of impunity is being out past the 12 mile limit and so feeling like you can operate without any police or coast guard oversight, whether it’s a zone of impunity because the victims are, say for instance, illegal immigrants from Burma or Cambodia, or are members of ethnic minorities like those hill tribes girls, or whether there’s a zone of impunity because of corruption. And we know that that’s a problem. It’s something that we’ve raised with the Thais. But we see such limited anti-corruption efforts, with only one public official this last year being convicted for forced labor related charges.
So it’s something that is kind of a multifaceted problem, but also as a result then it has many reasons why it would be hard to address it under the current Thai approach. Now, we’d like the see the Royal Thai Police and the new – what’s called the DSI, which is kind of their equivalent of the FBI, be able to come together in an interagency way to investigate and prosecute these cases. We’d like to see them working with the – what’s the MSDHS, which is the social and health service, which has assisted almost 300 victims in government-run facilities over the last year, so it’s not that nothing is being done. But in a country when you have so many victims in that country, when you have so many people who are being held in forced labor or sex trafficking, there just needs to be so much more done.
Again, it’s I think the classic case of a country on the Watch List where there are some activities, but it just never – it’s like an engine that just doesn’t catch. So it’s certainly not having the results that we would need to see to be able to upgrade the country. On the other hand, there are results, and so as a result, you did not see a downgrade to Tier 3 of Thailand in this reporting cycle.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from the line of Julian Pecquet with The Hill.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks very much for doing the call, Mr. Ambassador. I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about the consequences of being on Tier 3. I understand there’s potential cuts in foreign aid, cultural, educational grants, the possibility of going to the IMF and stopping loans to those countries. What – can you explain to us what the next steps are, whether Congress needs to get involved, how that all works?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, the next steps end up being that the President looks at all of those things. I would – you did that better than I probably could off the top of my head as far as what those various consequences are, so I hope everybody else was taking notes during your question.
The – I think the main things is that the President now will look at this to see what in the – what is in the U.S. national interest vis-à-vis the possibility of these types of targeted sanctions. One of our concerns, obviously, is that we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach, that we don’t have a heavy-handed approach that would actually cut off the very thing that we need in order to make the change contemplated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
One thing that’s an innovation over the last four, five years in the report is that we actually have the recommendations published with the report so that countries can know exactly what it is that they need to do under the minimum standards in order to move up. And so when we are looking at the sanctions and whether it’s that cut in foreign assistance, in arms control, Arms Export Control Act money, whether it’s the stuff, like you said, over at the World Bank or the IMF, we want to make sure that those are targeted and that we’re not cutting off the ability to help the countries, whether it’s through training and technical assistance, whether it’s through police training, support of the NGOs, et cetera.
So that’s going to be what we’re working on over the next three months or so, and you’ll see something in the fall from the President.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We’ll go to the line of Samir Nader with Middle East Broadcasting.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Can you please highlight for us the importance of what the Iraqi gentleman did to receive the honor today?
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: So as I mentioned earlier, Iraq is one of the countries that had been on that Watch List and had been on the cusp of being lowered to Tier 3. Mohammed Bassam is one of our anti-trafficking heroes, and we’re very proud in the work that he’s done as part of the central committee to combat trafficking in persons.
One of the things that is very important that we’ve seen in countries around the world is that it’s bringing in the folks from civil society. And Mr. Bassam works for the International Organization for Migration, which is not part of the UN system, but it is an international organization that cuts across governments and has really been a voice for the trafficking victims and other vulnerable and exploited migrants over the years. He could have simply been someone who would go to the meetings and work on some of – the legislative response and all the other things that I had mentioned earlier, but he went that much farther.
He found 35 Ukrainian and Bulgarian construction workers who had been stranded in Iraq, first trafficked, held in horrible conditions, and then were left basically by themselves in a foreign country alone, not knowing Arabic, not knowing anyone. He took it on himself to deliver medical assistance, water, food, was able to contact their families himself, and really was pushing simultaneously with the government that this case needed to be investigated, that this case needed to be brought forward in the system.
Now, that – the legal proceedings against their bosses are pending, so I can’t really talk about the internals of that particular case. But through Mr. Bassam al-Nasseri’s work, we really see these men who were in such dire straits rescued. They’re back home, they’re safe, and they’re hopefully going to see justice done going forward. So it’s a very inspiring story, and to me it’s a story of somebody who could have easily simply gone to meetings and acted like a bureaucrat, but instead saw people who needed help and decided to do the right thing.
STAFF: Okay. Thanks, everybody, for joining the call. Again, this – the call is embargoed till 4:00 p.m., and thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you.
STAFF: Thanks, everybody.
MR. VENTRELL: Bye, everybody.
For more information, read the Trafficking in Persons Report 2013
- ross posted from State.gov