Myanmar (Burma) and Turkmenistan do not meet minimum standards to address human trafficking and are making no attempts to do so, according to the 2018 U.S. State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report released today. The report, which ranks countries based on their government’s efforts to comply with minimum U.S. Trafficking Victims and Protection Act (TVPA) standards, also boosted Uzbekistan from the bottom ranking to the Tier 2 Watch List.
The governments of both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan annually force public employees and others to labor in the cotton fields. Although Uzbekistan recently has taken steps to end forced labor, the Uzbek government’s upgrade to the Tier 2 Watch List “is premature due to its persistence on a large scale—at least a third of a million people—in the last harvest,” says Bennett Freeman, former deputy assistant secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and co-founder of the Cotton Campaign, a broad coalition working to end forced labor in the cotton fields.
Myanmar was downgraded this year from the Tier 2 Watch List, which requires, in part, that countries not fully meeting the TVPA’s minimum standards make significant efforts to do so.
The report also downgrades Malaysia from Tier 2 to the Tier 2 Watch List, addressing the country’s controversial upgrading in 2016 from the lowest ranking. Solidarity Center allies have documented extensive forced labor conditions in Malaysia. The Kyrgyz Republic and South Africa also were downgraded from Tier 2 to the Tier 2 Watch List, which includes countries like Bangladesh, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Nicaragua and Nigeria.
Thailand was upgraded from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2.
Profits from forced labor account for $150 billion in illegal profits per year, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The TVPA report organizes countries into tiers based on trafficking records: Tier 1 for nations that meet minimum U.S. standards; Tier 2 for those making significant efforts to meet those standards; Tier 2 “Watch List” for those that deserve special scrutiny; and Tier 3 for countries that are not making significant efforts.
The Trafficking in Persons report, which has been issued annually for 18 years, covers 190 countries and is required by the 2000 TVPA law.