The Western Hemisphere has come a "very
long way in the last few years" in addressing the problem
of human trafficking, says John Miller, director of the
U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking
In November 15 prepared remarks at the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, Miller said the hemisphere
is now much more active than in previous years in fighting
the human trafficking problem, which he likened to "modern-day
"When I came to the State Department
three years ago, the issue was in its infancy. We are seeing
so much more recognition [of] and activity" against
trafficking, Miller told the IDB.
The official singled out the actions of
Brazil, in particular, in combating labor trafficking.
"Brazil has been especially diligent
and productive in this regard. It is a world leader in identifying
labor victims, especially in agriculture," said Miller.
However, Miller said he is concerned that
a State Department "Tier 2 watch list" contains
a number of Western Hemisphere countries that are weak in
prosecuting human trafficking. Those countries are Belize,
the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua and Suriname.
More information about the Tier 2 watch list is available
in the Trafficking
in Persons 2005 report and the electronic journal
to Human Trafficking on the State Department Web
The main purpose of this watch list is to
"stimulate action, not make a comparative list of who's
up and who's down," said Miller. "We make each
recommendation based on the minimum standards described
in the law, not as a function of politics."
Miller said that in recommending follow-up
action, the State Department looks at three facets of the
anti-trafficking fight -- prosecution, prevention and protection.
"My message -- in every country I visit
and with every dignitary I meet with -- is that each part
of this three-part approach is essential," Miller said.
The Western Hemisphere needs to give extra
attention to four broad areas of the human trafficking phenomenon,
said Miller. Those areas, he said, are the "explosion"
of child prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation,
the many "faces of the migration issue and the frequency
[with which] human smuggling turns into human trafficking,"
the fact that state corruption "often facilitates human
trafficking" and the need to encourage nongovernmental
involvement in the solution because "private organizations
are often essential in victim protection."
Miller said the U.S. government estimates
that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across
borders around the world each year, and between 14,500 and
17,500 people are trafficked into the United States yearly.
Millions more are trafficked within their own countries,
On the positive side, Miller said that in
recent years, governments and citizens and nongovernmental
organizations have begun to awaken to the problem of human
trafficking. Worldwide, the number of trafficking-related
convictions has increased to more than 3,000 in 2004, and
new legislation to combat human trafficking was approved
in 39 countries, he said.
"We need your dedication and energy
and patience," Miller told the IDB. He added that the
U.S. government "can engage governments, we can seek
to educate people around the world, but the fight to end
modern slavery" depends on the involvement of nongovernmental
organizations, regular citizens, individual diplomats, businesspeople
and others -- "all of us committed to the new abolition
movement" of ending human trafficking.
Following is the text of Miller's prepared
REMARKS BY JOHN MILLER,
DIRECTOR, OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
INTER-AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK
NOVEMBER 15, 2005
Good afternoon. I am honored to speak to
such a distinguished audience today. It is especially gratifying
to come before a group of people who are normally thinking
about finance and development. Your work is, in many ways,
the ultimate solution to the circumstances that make millions
of men, women, and children vulnerable to the global crime
of human trafficking -- my subject today.
Modern-day slavery, euphemistically called
trafficking in persons, is a global phenomenon that relies
on coercion and exploitation. It thrives on converting hope
to fear. It is maintained through violence. And it is highly
Human trafficking extends into every country
in the world, including the United States. We have not yet
found a country immune, largely because in every country
there are people hoping to improve their lives through work.
Too often there aren't enough domestic opportunities so
they seek jobs abroad -- and that's when individuals become
vulnerable to the lies, coercion, and manipulation that
traffickers employ to lure victims.
Fundamentally, human trafficking deprives
people of their human rights and freedoms, which is the
most prominent reason that the U.S. government is working
to confront this despicable practice. But human trafficking
is a multi-dimensional threat. It is a global health risk,
profoundly harming individual victims and facilitating the
transmission of disease, including HIV/AIDS. And it is a
threat to the safety and security of nations because of
the profits generated for organized crime networks that
have no respect for the rule of law.
By definition, human trafficking involves
force, fraud, or coercion -- legally sanitized words that
cover intimidation, kidnapping, beatings, rape, deceit,
abandonment, and murder. Victims describe mind-numbing varieties
of torture, psychological abuse, and physical deprivation
that are at the heart of the trafficking experience.
Before generalizing, allow me to introduce
one victim. Rosa was trafficked from Mexico to the U.S.
Her true story illustrates the nature and scope and harm
of human trafficking.
Rosa was 13 and waiting tables in a restaurant
in a small village near Vera Cruz, Mexico, when she was
approached by an acquaintance of the family who told her,
"You know you can make 10 times more money in the U.S.
doing what you're doing here. I know someone who can find
you a job in Texas. You can send money home to your family;
you can have your own life. If you don't like the job, we'll
get you a new one. If you're homesick, we'll bring you back
across the border. You can't lose."
Rosa was young and hopeful. She asked her
parents if she could go, but they forbade her. But she wanted
a better life than what she had, and so, against her parents'
and friends' warnings, she secretly accepted the offer.
She was told to go to the main hotel in town on Friday evening.
When she got there, a car was waiting, with several other
young girls in it from neighboring villages.
They drove as far up into the desert toward
the Mexican-American border. Then they arrived at what looked
like a pre-arranged place in the desert on the Mexican side.
There were dozens more girls from other towns in Mexico,
and more men too.
On the ground were backpacks and water bottles.
They were told to put the backpacks on their backs, and
then they began to walk. They walked four days and four
nights -- through the desert, across the Rio Grande, and
into Brownsville, Texas, where they were picked up by a
white van and driven across Texas, Louisiana and into rural
Florida, where they were dropped off in front a series of
A big guy came out and told them, "I've
just bought you. Now you work for me." A little later
an older woman took them to spots in the trailer. She told
Rosa she was in a brothel and that she would have to buy
her freedom by sexually servicing men.
Rosa was young. She was a virgin. She was
Catholic. She knew what the woman was telling her was bad
-- a sin. She began to cry and begged to be taken to a restaurant
to work. But she was told, "There are no restaurant
jobs, only this." When she refused to do what they
said, the burly man brought out three other men who took
her into one of the trailers and gang-raped her to induct
her into the "business." Then they locked her
in the trailer without food and water until she succumbed.
For the next six months she was a prisoner.
She was forced to service 10 or more men a day. On the weekends
it was as many as 20 to 30 men. The men bought a ticket,
which was a condom, for $20. But they often didn't use it.
Twice Rosa was impregnated and twice forced
to have an abortion and twice forced back into the brothel
the next day. She also was forced to pay off the price of
the abortions in more services. She was beaten if she refused
a customer's demands. She was guarded 24 hours a day, even
when she went to the bathroom. She was passed around at
private parties the trafficking ring held in the evenings
and on weekends, for in addition to trafficking women and
children, this ring also robbed banks and ran drugs.
Once she and several others tried to escape.
They were caught and pistol-whipped around the head and
face in front of the other girls -- to deter all of them.
She became sick and felt crazy. The traffickers offered
her drugs and alcohol to numb her pain.
She was only rescued when one of the young
women jumped out of a second-story window at one of the
private parties and ran to a neighbor's house. The neighbor
called the local police. The police called the INS and FBI,
and a sting operation was set up. Over 40 young women and
girls were rescued, and 14 traffickers were arrested.
A medical doctor examined Rosa. She had
several STDs; she had pelvic inflammatory disease and scar
tissue from the forced abortions. She had broken bones that
hadn't healed properly from the beatings. She was addicted
to drugs and alcohol, had post-traumatic stress syndrome,
including nightmares, flashbacks, depression, and suicidal
tendencies. In short, she was physically, mentally, emotionally,
and spiritually broken.
To make matters worse, when Rosa was discovered,
the U.S. didn't have a trafficking law. Instead of really
rescuing Rosa, the police arrested her and the other young
women and children, and locked them up in jail along with
If you take Rosa's story and multiply it
by hundreds of thousands, even millions, you will get an
idea of the magnitude of the problem.
The U.S. government estimates that between
600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across borders
each year, and between 14,500 and 17,500 are trafficked
into the U.S. each year. Millions more are trafficked within
their own countries.
People are trafficked for many purposes.
You just heard one story -- of trafficking for purposes
of prostitution. But men, women, and children are trafficked
for forced labor into construction, agriculture, sweatshops,
and factories. Children are trafficked for camel jockeying,
and to be child soldiers, or into brick factories, rug-making
sweatshops, or cocoa plantations because their small bodies
and little fingers are useful in making or picking these
products. Women and children are trafficked for domestic
servitude and sexual exploitation. Up to 80 percent of the
victims of transnational human trafficking are women and
Countries can be divided roughly into countries
of origin (usually the resource-poor countries or countries
that are politically or economically unstable); countries
of destination (usually resource-rich developed countries,
where demand is located); and transit countries (countries
along a trafficking route, where traffickers have safe passage
and harbor). Some countries are countries of origin, transit,
In the past, people working against human
trafficking, and the State Department, have focused most
attention on countries of origin. More and more, we are
also focusing on the demand for slaves, generally coming
from wealthier countries, that creates the market for more
I've made the point that the crime of human
trafficking is a global problem. I would like to address
a few points regarding the situation in the hemisphere.
There are many tools to combat human trafficking,
and one of these is the Trafficking in Persons Report mandated
by the U.S. Congress since 2000.
Among Western Hemisphere countries, we have:
-- Two Tier 1 countries: Colombia and Canada
-- Twelve countries on Tier 2: Argentina,
Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana,
Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay
-- Six countries on Tier 2 Watch List: Belize,
Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Suriname
-- Three countries on Tier 3: Cuba, Ecuador,
-- Bolivia and Jamaica started on Tier 3
but took significant steps to avoid sanctions and were raised
to Tier 2 by the President in September.
The main purpose of this report is to stimulate
action, not make a comparative list of who's up and who's
down. We make each recommendation based on the minimum standards
described in the law, not as a function of politics.
In each country narrative and in recommending
follow-up action we look at three facets of the anti-slavery
fight, also known as the three "Ps": prosecution,
prevention, and protection. My message -- in every country
I visit and with every dignitary I meet with -- is that
each part of this three-part approach is essential.
To prosecute, regional cooperation is essential.
The traffickers function as long as they operate beyond
the law and between systems of enforcement. Prevention is
self-evident but under-employed. Vulnerable people, especially
women and children, should be warned that promises of work
abroad are often traps. And protection appears to be the
greatest challenge for many governments that, tragically,
treat slaves like criminals.
The Western Hemisphere has come a very long
way in the last few years in addressing the complex human-trafficking
challenge. When I came to the State Department three years
ago, the issue was in its infancy. We are seeing so much
more recognition and activity.
I want to single out the actions of Brazil
in combating labor trafficking. Brazil has been especially
diligent and productive in this regard. It is a world leader
in identifying labor victims, especially in agriculture.
I am worried to see a number of "weak
Tier Twos" from the hemisphere on the watch list. Many
countries are still weak on prosecution. This is true around
the globe, and it is true in the U.S.
Four broad areas of the human trafficking
phenomenon that the hemisphere should put some extra attention
on are: 1) the explosion of child prostitution and commercial
sexual exploitation, 2) the many faces of the migration
issue and the frequency that human smuggling turns into
human trafficking, 3) the fact that state corruption often
facilitates human trafficking, and; 4) the need to encourage
non-government involvement in the solution because private
organizations are often essential in victim protection.
If prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation
were not tolerated, we wouldn't have sex trafficking. To
confront that fact, we need to confront the demand for victims,
not just the supply of victims.
Migration continues to diversify. There
is increasing Asian migration into the hemisphere, and migration
trends from the hemisphere to Europe, not to mention migration
into the U.S. More and more, we find bonded labor schemes
function to put people -- who start out as willing participants
-- into slavery that is simply inhuman. Can you imagine
this? Chinese smugglers commonly charge $20,000-$30,000
a head to arrange transport to the hemisphere. Essentially
the smuggler owns that person when they reach whatever destination
they reach. And the debt is often impossible to fulfill.
It's labor slavery, not a new future.
For a programmatic organization such as
the Inter-Development Bank, anti-trafficking programs can
be integrated into many of your activities, especially in
rule of law, anti-corruption, and social welfare programs
as well as programs targeting youth.
I have painted a bleak picture but in recent
years governments and citizens and non-governmental organizations
have begun to awake. Worldwide, the number of trafficking-related
convictions has increased to over 3,000 in 2004, and new
anti-human trafficking legislation was approved in 39 countries.
The struggle will be a long one.
We need your dedication and energy and patience.
The U.S. government can engage governments, we can seek
to educate people around the world, but the fight to end
modern slavery depends on the involvement of NGOs, citizens,
individual diplomats, businesspeople, the IFIs [international
financial institutions], all of us committed to the new
abolition movement, together.