On-the-Record Briefing: On the Rollout of the June 2003 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report

John Miller, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Released by the Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 11, 2003

MR. MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Let me say just a few words and then we'll get to your questions.
More than reports, laws and documents, this is about people, people that have suffered. And for that reason, at this time, I'd like to just take two minutes to show you two public service announcements prepared by the UN with the financial support of the State Department.
[Video is played.]

MR. MILLER: We're trying to get these shown in as many countries around the world as possible. One quick amendment to those commercials. They were prepared several months ago. I think there is a 700,000 figure. The latest U.S. Government estimate is that 800- to 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually, including 18- to 20,000 across the United States borders. That 800 to 900,000 figure does not include internal trafficking, trafficking within a country. So I think it's fair to say if that was included, the annual figure of trafficking victims would be well over a million.
Let me just start off with a few comments about this report that many people have worked very hard on. I am a latecomer to this struggle, having been sworn in March 2nd. But I believe with all my heart this is one of the great human rights issues of the 21st century.
You have got a copy of the report. Let me just walk you through a couple of features, and then we'll get to questions.
Obviously, in the beginning, there is a letter from the Secretary, and -- expressing his concern -- and then if you'll turn to page 5, you'll see that the report starts off with a story about a trafficking victim, Nina. And interspersed in the pages that follow are stories about other trafficking victims, Guzman, Mercy and Jonah, and many others. And, of course, what they all have in common: deception, beatings, being forced into labor or sex.
Then follows a lengthy introduction. It includes the standards that we use in compiling the report. They start at page 15. The first question that we face is: Are there a significant number of victims, 100 or more, that we can identify? That gets a country included in the report.
In some cases, a country may have more than that number; we just don't have the information, cannot verify. Then there are standards, as you see, minimum standards that get countries that are on the report into tier one. And the standards involve the prohibition and punishment for severe trafficking, the prescribing of serious punishment for sex trafficking, prescribing of serious punishment for other kinds of trafficking.
And then: Are serious and sustained efforts being made to eliminate trafficking? And there are seven indicia of serious and sustained efforts, which are listed, starting with vigorous investigation and prosecution of traffickers, protection and help to victims, prevention efforts, cooperation with other countries, extraditions, monitoring migration patterns and looking at government complicity. And then, if countries don't meet those minimum standards, the question then becomes: Are they in tier two or tier three?
And to get into tier two they have to make significant efforts towards meeting those standards; they are not there, but they are making significant efforts. And significant efforts is primarily the efforts that are being made to get into compliance with the standards, but also we take into account size of the problem and the measures available to the country, in terms of resources and capacities.
Going ahead, if you get to page 18, you'll see another new feature of the report this year. There are a lot of great success stories. As countries around the world are waking up, more and more countries are doing things. And so we print, starting in 18, in page 18, some of the practices that have been successful. The Secretary mentioned some of them in his remarks.
What is remarkable is that many of the countries and the practices listed, many of the countries do not have a lot of resources, and many of the practices are low cost or no cost: Benin, sending out elders into the villages to talk about trafficking, getting all the taxi and the lorry drivers together to educate them on what signs they should look for; a province in India deciding that a police officer's performance appraisal should include what the officer is doing on trafficking, and many others, including those the Secretary mentioned.
On page 21, comes the tier listings, followed by the narratives. And a couple of comments in general on this. Don't believe for a moment -- and we want nobody to believe -- that because a country is on tier one, that it is doing everything that it should, that it doesn't have a problem. Tier one refers back to those minimum standards. Just about every country in the world has a problem when it comes to modern day slavery, and that includes the United States of America.
Tier two is where the majority of countries are. This is not surprising because in the last couple of years, with the legislation Congress passed a couple of years ago, with President Bush's executive order last December making this a high priority of the U.S. Government, more and more countries are becoming aware of this challenge and more and more countries are doing things; they're making significant efforts, even though they haven't reached minimum standards.
And for both tier one and tier two countries, as you'll see in the narratives, we identify weaknesses, we raise concerns, we cite areas where more action might be needed.
Then we come to tier three, and these are countries -- some of them have made efforts, but in relation to the scope of the problem, given their resources, their efforts are not deemed significant. This is an ongoing struggle, and so just this -- the U.S., just as countries in tier one, countries in tier two have to do more, countries in tier three have the opportunity in the next four months to show the administration that they are making significant efforts, and the narratives point out where those efforts can be made. And our embassies are engaging with such countries and discussing where efforts can be made.
The decision on sanctions that the law calls for the President to make does not occur until this fall. Therefore, it is possible for a country on tier three to make significant efforts between now and then, and we hope all countries will make more efforts between now and next year. One of the fascinating developments has been how efforts have increased in the last several months. As our embassies have become more involved, as governments have become more involved, as this report neared its publication dates, we have seen laws passed from the Philippines to Haiti, we've seen more arrests from Serbia to Cambodia, we've seen special prosecution units set up. And this is good. This was the purpose of the law, and we hope this will continue.
I think that about covers it except to point out at the end of the report, when you get through all the narratives, you get to page 165, we have a special cases section: countries that weren't listed either because governments didn't exercise sufficient control or there was a lack of information or the information was ambiguous.
And then if you go on to page 169, there is a compilation of some of the United States Government efforts. The United States Department of Justice, pursuant to the law, is right now drafting an assessment of how the United States is doing. So we also will be told how we're doing, what we're doing well, and where we can improve.
And then lastly, on page 172, there's a list of international conventions and their status and who has signed and ratified them.
The administration looks forward to working with all countries in tackling this great human rights challenge of modern day slavery. We're going to work with all countries, whether they're in the report, not in the report, on tier one, tier two, tier three. The goal has to be to abolish modern day slavery.
Let's throw it open to questions. Yes, if you could just identify yourself.

QUESTION: I notice that Laos, Cambodia, China and Vietnam are all on tier two this year.

MR. MILLER: Right.

QUESTION: Were any of those countries moved up from tier three during the last year?

MR. MILLER: I believe -- correct me if I'm wrong -- I believe Cambodia was on tier three last year. And were any of those others? I'm not sure if any of those others were. I don't think so.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MILLER: No, they were tier two. The one country that moved was Cambodia. You're going to ask why?


MR. MILLER: During the last -- and the report goes into this, if you want to turn to Cambodia, which is, I think -- let's get the page -- page 43. Without going through all the details on prevention and protection and prosecution, I will just say that in the last several months, working with our Embassy, working with people in our office, working with international organizations and working with a leading nongovernmental organization, International Justice Mission, Cambodia has had many arrests, convictions and sentences of traffickers. The government has shown a significant effort in the area of prostitution that was not there. We hope that that will continue.

QUESTION: Am I correct in assuming that these countries in tier three have four months to put things into order before something -- sanctions will -- what kind of sanctions will apply, for instance, for the present presidency of the European Union? Greece, I mean, it's in tier three.

MR. MILLER: Well, the President is called on under the law to make that decision on sanctions. The sanctions were a call for the loss of some forms of US aid. They do not include the loss of humanitarian aid or trade-related aid, but other kinds of aid. And our vote in international financial institutions can be affected. The President has the authority to waive sanctions completely in the national interest, or waive them partly in the national interest.

QUESTION: And I take it you (inaudible) Greece?

MR. MILLER: Well, I think -- I think the question answered itself. Any country in tier three, we hope will do its utmost over the coming years, and, obviously, over the next four months, to make significant efforts, so that the President will not have to apply sanctions.

QUESTION: You mentioned it's applicable to Greece. It doesn't get any kind of assistance from --

MR. MILLER: Well, does it get any military assistance? Does it get any educational or cultural assistance? I am not an expert on every kind of assistance. But I suspect, yes, there is some assistance there.

QUESTION: By that -- by mentioning that, are you -- you saying that the United States would take action in sanctioning two NATO allies, like Greece and Turkey, with -- punishing them with the reduction of military assistance for which it requires -- which these countries need to perform their NATO obligations?

MR. MILLER: It is my hope -- and I think the hope of everybody in this Department -- that the President, when he reaches that decision, will find that such countries have made significant efforts to improve their performance in the fight against trafficking, so that that consequence will not happen. That's what this four-month period is for. But I don't -- I can't predict what will happen.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what Russia has done to merit being lifted to tier two from tier three?


QUESTION: And can you tell us -- just a practical date -- can you tell us what is the date by which the President has to make his determination?

MR. MILLER: Let me answer the last question first. The legislation provides for 45 to 90 days from the issuance of this report. I think you can assume 90 days. And the legislation, I think, really intends that the sanctions, if there are to be sanctions, would go into effect the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1. So I think that is really the practical deadline facing the President.
Coming back to your first question regarding Russia, Russia had a number of general public awareness events that they hadn't had in the past year. Russia has been engaged in a Herculean effort in drafting what could well be a model anti-trafficking law. This law is supposed to pass the Duma this month.
Obviously, in all of these countries -- in all of these countries, we have listed concerns. We're going to be looking closely at Russia and see how they perform over the coming year. We're going to look and see if this law is indeed passed, and if on the ground it is implemented.

QUESTION: Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants come from Central America and Mexico across the U.S. border.


QUESTION: There was a case just a little over a month ago in Texas, where -- I think it was 19 folks were found dead in a truck in Texas. I noticed in the numbers for people being trafficked in, is there a distinction made between folks who have -- who are being trafficked in versus, say, smuggled in or paid for -- paying for their way in?

MR. MILLER: No, that is a very important distinction, and it sometimes gets obscured. It is possible that somebody that is smuggled in is a trafficking victim, but that is not necessarily the case. Somebody can be smuggled in that is not put in conditions of slavery, so they are not a trafficking victim. Similarly, somebody can come into the country legally -- they may have been deceived, but they may come into the country legally -- and end up in bondage. So you cannot -- and this is a real challenge when it comes to research -- you cannot just take the number of smuggling cases, which are far vaster, and say, "Well, that equals the number of trafficking cases," because that is just -- that's not the case.

QUESTION: So it looks like the victims in Texas wouldn't be considered part of the numbers you would --

MR. MILLER: Well, unless -- if we have evidence that they are being -- that they were going to be held in slavery, that they were going to be held against their will in brothels or worked in factories and farms, but just being smuggled across a border under this legislation, as trafficking is defined in the law that Congress passed, that doesn't make it a trafficking victim.
It is a -- again, of course, I am sure there is a significant number of smuggled people that are trafficking victims, and this is a real challenge as we do research around the world: getting countries when they are dealing with smuggling cases to ask the right questions, to find out from the people they have caught being smuggled, are they -- are they also trafficking victims.

QUESTION: In this case, I mean, the fact that they were, obviously, held without their will in a container with no air doesn't count?

MR. MILLER: No, no.

QUESTION: I mean, it doesn't reach the threshold?

MR. MILLER: Well, it depends also were they -- did they enter into this willingly? I mean, was this --

QUESTION: Right, that's what I'm saying.


QUESTION: If they entered into it willingly, but then they were held against their will at that point?

MR. MILLER: Then you'd get to a -- then you'd get to a tougher case. But, in general, you have to see some -- you know, some holding period. And some, they were required to do some work or labor under the law, or sex. So I'm not defending -- you know, please don't misunderstand me. What I have read, that's a terrible -- that's a terrible case. I am just saying that under the law that may not -- it's possible that would not qualify as a trafficking case.

QUESTION: What effect has this report had, or previous reports, for that matter, with the -- I guess, both the humanitarian effort, as well as the police effort, Interpol, and so forth, to work with the countries to break up the drug cartels, the drug -- to break up also the influence of the -- I guess you would call it the traffickers -- the smugglers themselves that have set up shipping and airline-type procedures to bring these people from continent to continent? Any headway there?

MR. MILLER: Well, speaking in general terms, probably some headway and not enough, which is, I think, one could say, almost about any of the areas here. There are more and more international efforts. There are more and more memorandums of understanding signed by governments, including some of the governments mentioned earlier, Laos and Cambodia.
There are -- you have an organization like SECI in Southeastern Europe that is focusing on trafficking and organized crime, where these nations have banded together with our help, the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There are more and more international conferences being held on this. You have mentioned you referred to organized crime. The figures aren't exact, but I think it's safe to say that next to the arms trade and the drug trade, that the trafficking of sex slaves is the third biggest source of revenue for organized crime. That's what our law enforcement authorities believe.

QUESTION: A further question. Is there any monitoring too of the Internet? Because that is a communications entity much like a cell telephone would be here in the United States.

MR. MILLER: You know, we had a conference. It's interesting that you mention that. We had a conference in late February, and we had delegates from 113 countries around the world. And most of them were not high officials, they were people out in the field that had been working. And one of the suggestions that they made is that there be more monitoring of the Internet.
I think some of that is obviously going on with police, but I think one of the things we have to look at is can we -- can we improve that effort, particularly, with regards to trafficking.

QUESTION: I meant also to ask you about Saudi Arabia and why it was raised.

MR. MILLER: Sure. Saudi Arabia rose to tier two because Saudi Arabia showed significant effort, and I'll give you just a couple of examples. Saudi Arabia, through their embassies abroad, in countries such as Sri Lanka, for example, where people come to work in Saudi Arabia, domestics and for other purposes, Saudi Arabia has worked with their embassies to distribute information to anybody that comes to Saudi Arabia telling them what their rights are. Saudi Arabia set up a system whereby workers who believe that they can -- that they are -- have been trafficked or in slave-like conditions can contact the government.
Most of these cases are not sex cases. They're forced labor cases. They have a system set up where the employer and the worker can go to arbitration. The interesting thing is 90 percent of the cases have been decided in favor of the worker. And then Saudi Arabia moves to either allow the worker to switch jobs, to get restitution, or pays for their repatriation to their original country.
So Saudi Arabia has shown some very significant effort in the last year, and we hope it continues.

QUESTION: I've got a couple of questions about people moving, graduating their three to tier two. First of all, in the little explanation of who went up and who went down on page 16, you've missed a country. Kyrgyzstan is also among those that went from tier three to tier two.
My question, though, was about Iran, which appeared on tier three last year and yet this year has been placed in a special -- in the special category because you don't have diplomatic -- you don't have an embassy there and can't corroborate any of the information.
Why did you feel comfortable in putting it on tier three last year and then taking it off this year? And second of all, you don't have embassies in North Korea either, or full diplomatic status in Cuba, neither of which appeared on the list, any tier, last year.
What gives?

MR. MILLER: This has to do -- and I wasn't here last year, having taken over in March. But I think the answer is this has to do with the ambiguity, or lack of ambiguity, of the information. We were not comfortable -- the Administration was not comfortable in placing Iran in either tier two or tier three. There is much information out of Iran, but a lot of it's secondhand and not verifiable. Reports, for example, that victims are cared for. Well, how are they cared for? We're not able to establish. Reports of convictions and prosecutions.
The information on North Korea and Cuba is not ambiguous. Cuba has a government-run sex tourism business that employs minors. Cuba has no efforts at prevention, protection or prosecution. There are not even ambiguous evidence of that. The same can be said for North Korea, where stories, reports from NGOs, document forced labor trafficking and there are no efforts.
So the information may not be as vast as where we have an embassy, but there is significant information and it's not ambiguous.

QUESTION: Well, one of the things that you say that Iran is cited for in this special category this year is providing -- or that boys are trafficked through Iran to the United Arab Emirates, where they're supposed to work as camel jockeys. And I was under the impression from what Secretary Powell said that that was no longer a problem in the United Arab Emirates, which has moved, jumped, two categories up.

MR. MILLER: That's right, and that's one reason why they jumped. But you're looking back a year. You're looking back to March 2002. And this was a report from Iran, not verifiable.
But the United Arab Emirates -- you're right. United Arab Emirates has taken the lead in the Middle East in what has been a severe trafficking challenge in the Middle East, camel jockeys. This was, for those of you who are not familiar with this, in years past young boys, some of them six, seven years old, were taken from the Indian subcontinent, were trafficked, sold into Middle Eastern countries, starved, basically kept against their wills, strapped to camels.
And the United Arab Emirates, along with a lot of other things, stepped up to the plate and banned child camel jockeys and then put their money where their mouth was, using retina scans and DNA tests and a lot of other things to make sure that they are not child camel jockeys. And this has led other Middle East countries to consider this ban.
Let me take one -- you had a question. I'll take one or two more.

QUESTION: Could you just go into why some countries aren't on the list at all?


QUESTION: Like Singapore, New Zealand, Jordan, a whole bunch of nations aren't on it at all.

MR. MILLER: Sure. Well, that's a very good question and I just go back to what I said in the beginning. Because a country is not on the list does not mean they don't have a trafficking challenge. What it means is either we didn't have sufficient information and/or we had information but we could not establish that there are in the neighborhood of a hundred victims. This is sometimes very difficult. Victims don't line up and raise their hands. And sometimes, countries that don't prosecute, it's even harder.
All I can say on this is that we added 30 countries that weren't on last year, and those countries that aren't on this year, one of our priorities is going to be to get more information so that there will be more countries on the list next year.

QUESTION: Last one?

MR. MILLER: Yes, last one.

QUESTION: What would be the proper tier for the United States, if you were in a position to give the U.S. one?

MR. MILLER: Well, the State Department is the foreign policy agency. It doesn't evaluate the United States. The Justice Department, as I mentioned, is in the process of doing that. I think the United States has, just speaking for myself, the United States has done a lot of good things in the last year. We have a lot of areas we could improve on. But I have not personally examined the United States.
But I think I can say -- and I say this whenever I meet with foreign governments -- the United States has a challenge too, and we need to do more, particularly -- I think we need to do more across the board. But the Attorney General has definitely been stepping up prosecutions in the last year, and with the signing of President Bush's order in December calling on every agency to make this a priority and develop a strategic implementation plan, I think you're going to see a lot more action from the United States in the coming year, and I think that's all to the good.
I thank you very much for your kind attention. This issue -- I got to tell you -- maybe this isn't something I should do -- but, in a way, we do need your help. We need your help in just raising the consciousness of people around the world about this issue. That's what those two commercials at the beginning are designed to do.
As people become more and more aware, as they talk to their governments more and more, as they look around their villages and their neighborhoods, the more progress we make toward abolishing modern day slavery. Thank you.

Released on June 11, 2003