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Top Sourcing Countries Rank Poorly in US Human Trafficking Report

Rivet's 2020 Denim Circularity report takes a deep dive into how the global denim industry is plotting its circular future amidst a worldwide pandemic.

Sourcing’s low-cost locales may do well to maintain margins, but the sector’s key markets for making goods don’t rank well where human trafficking is concerned.

Human trafficking can involve selling a person for labor, sex trafficking of girls and women lured from their homes or the enslavement of so-called employees.

The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released a report this month ranking Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand among the worst of the sourcing countries based on efforts to eliminate trafficking.

A country can be ranked Tier 1, 2 or 3 based on its compliance with trafficking standards and efforts to curb the unfavorable practice altogether.

Tier 1 countries’ governments fully comply with The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, Tier 2 countries’ governments don’t fully comply with the standards but are making efforts to increase compliance with those standards. Countries ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List have governments that don’t comply with the standards and the number of trafficking victims is substantial or significantly increasing, and Tier 3 countries don’t comply with the standards and aren’t making any significant strides to do so.

Bangladesh, India and Vietnam were among those ranked Tier 2.

According to the report, Bangladesh isn’t in compliance with the TVPA standards but the country is making significant efforts to eliminate trafficking. It continued to prepare—though didn’t finalize—implementing rules for the 2012 Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act. Authorities in the country rescued 2,621 victims and placed them in nine government-operated shelters and the government continued to fund multipurpose shelters, drop-in centers and safe homes for victims of trafficking.

India funded shelters for victims and launched searches for missing and abandoned children who may have been subject to trafficking, but the government’s law enforcement progress was unknown as was actual trafficking data.

Cambodia came in on the Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year and the only thing that saved it from a Tier 3 ranking was a plan the government wrote that, if implemented, would “constitute making significant efforts to meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The report noted that Cambodia continued to prosecute and convict traffickers but it did not prosecute or convict any complicit officials or take action against a former anti-trafficking police chief whose conviction for human trafficking was secretly overturned in a closed-door Supreme Court hearing.

Thailand ranked worst at Tier 3.

As many as 4 million migrant workers are estimated to be working in Thailand and most are filtered through registered and unregistered labor brokers, some of which are in cahoots with employers and even law enforcement officials to confiscate identification documents and subject workers to debt bondage for the exorbitant fees posited as necessary for taking on the work.

“Some Thai officials are complicit in trafficking crimes and corruption continues to undermine anti-trafficking efforts. In some instances, corrupt officials on both sides of land borders accept payment from smugglers involved in the movement of migrants between Thailand and neighboring countries including Malaysia, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia; some of these migrants subsequently become trafficking victims,” the report noted.

The country prosecuted some trafficking cases but corruption impeded any progress on the issue. Thailand’s government does not comply with the TVPA minimum standards and isn’t making any efforts to do so.

“The bottom line is that this is no time for complacency,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in the report’s introduction. “Right now, across the globe, victims of human trafficking are daring to imagine the possibility of escape, the chance for a life without fear, and the opportunity to earn a living wage.”

He added, “One thing is clear: No nation can end modern slavery alone. Eliminating this global scourge requires a global solution. It also cannot be solved by governments alone. The private sector, academic institutions, civil society, the legal community, and consumers can all help to address the factors that allow human trafficking to flourish.”

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