On the Rollout of the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Annual Report

Secretary Colin L. Powell

Released by the Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 11, 2003

      Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to join Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John Miller for the release today of the State Department's Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which will be available to all of you.

      This congressionally mandated report represents the United States' deep commitment to stop the horrifying practice of human trafficking. In our 21st century world, where freedom and democracy are spreading to every continent, it is appalling and morally unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are exploited, abused and enslaved by peddlers in human misery.

      The victims of trafficking are forced to toil under dehumanizing and dangerous conditions on farms and in work camps, in brothels and in sweatshops. Trafficking touches many countries across the globe, including my own. An estimated 800- to 900,000 people are trafficked every year. Nearly 20,000 of these victims enter the United States. The transnational character of this crime means that countries of origin, transit and destination must work in partnership to prevent trafficking, protect its victims, and prosecute those who are responsible for trafficking.

      Using force, fraud and corruption, coercion and other horrible means, traffickers prey on the powerless, the desperate and the vulnerable. Girls as young as five are sold into prostitution; boys as young as 11 are being strong-armed into militias to serve as child soldiers or to perform forced labor for the combatants. Traffickers turn the hopes of poor men and women for a better life into a living nightmare of degradation and despair, a nightmare that ends too often in disease and death.

      Trafficking not only wrecks lives, it subverts government authority, threatens public health and is directly linked to other criminal activity. And because of corruption, insufficient laws and weak coordination within and between countries, traffickers frequently go unpunished.

      We hope that this report will help to raise awareness among governments and publics and serve as a catalyst for coordinated international action. In compiling our report, our embassies solicited information from their host countries, nongovernmental organizations and journalists. We also drew information from world bodies such as the International Organization for Migration and the International Labor Organization.

      We have been able to add 30 countries to this year's report, as a result of increased diplomatic dialogue and public attention to this tragic problem.

      I am also pleased to note that many countries are improving their anti-trafficking efforts. Mauritius has developed a multi-agency initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of children. Brazil is fighting sex tourism by working with hotels to stop child prostitution. The United Arab Emirates is the first government to ban the use of underage, underweight jockeys in the camel racing industry. And in Nepal, former victims are working alongside border officials to identify traffickers and victims at key crossing points.

      For our part, in the past two years the United States has provided over $100 million in anti-trafficking programs across the globe. Much of this money goes toward creating shelters and repatriation efforts for the victims, and towards opening economic opportunities to help rehabilitate them.

      As required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, starting this year, countries not making a significant effort to meet minimum standards face the possibility of sanctions. Countries can avoid sanctions by working with us and taking prompt action to improve their policies and practices.

      The United States stands prepared to help countries that demonstrate a determined commitment to strengthen their domestic capacities for combating trafficking. Working together, we can help the victims of trafficking escape bondage and allow them to live in dignity and freedom. Working in partnership, we can spare countless thousands the pain that others have suffered.

      We hope that our report will help tear down the trafficking industry. As President Bush has said, "Freedom is a non-negotiable demand of human dignity, the birthright of every person in every civilization."

      Now I'm pleased to turn the podium over to the Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Terrorism -- Trafficking, rather, in Persons, and that's John Miller. Trafficking really is a form of terrorism.

And let me take this opportunity to congratulate John and the hardworking members of his staff for compiling this very, very impressive report. Thank you, John.

Released on June 11, 2003
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