(Warsaw, Poland) - The following statement on Trafficking in Human Beings was delivered by the United States at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation currently being held in Warsaw, Poland:
Trafficking in Human Beings
Statements by Ambassador Nancy Ely-Raphel
U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
The U.S. Delegation is pleased to join in this discussion about the importance of both regional and government to civil society cooperation in combating trafficking in human beings. My delegation commends the OSCE for dedicating an entire day to human trafficking. This presents a strategic opportunity to substantially increase our collective cooperation among the OSCE participating States. Our goals and strategies should be simple and practical – namely, to rescue and protect victims, prevent further victimization, and prosecute traffickers, throughout the OSCE region.
I am the Senior Advisor to Secretary Powell and Director of the U.S. Department of State’s anti-trafficking office, known as the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This office promotes coordination of the U.S. Government’s anti-trafficking efforts, empowered by congressional legislation known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. As we implement this law, we see the need for cooperation from the highest levels of government to local NGOs through practical initiatives at every level. Simply put, the traffickers are strategically organized at every level, and we must be, too.
The criminal practice of trafficking is inherently transnational, requiring a continuous, international engagement with foreign governments and indigenous NGOs regionally. I believe that we will increase our effectiveness in proportion to which we think and act regionally. In other words, governments must think beyond their borders when it comes to trafficking, because traffickers do.
Don’t get me wrong. The responsibility to combat human trafficking – which also entails fulfilling OSCE commitments - lies first and foremost with the individual governments of each participating State. Towards that end, let me share with you some practical steps the U.S. Government is taking to combat this international scourge. For example, my office produces an annual report focusing on governmental efforts worldwide to prevent trafficking, aid trafficking victims and punish perpetrators through responsive legal frameworks and law enforcement.
Congress sought to create the strongest tool possible to direct international attention to the trafficking phenomenon. Countries may be subject to sanctions next year if they do not make serious and sustained efforts to meet minimum standards to combat trafficking. Specifically, our 2002 report issued in June identifies twenty OSCE participating States that are not yet meeting minimum standards in combating trafficking. Unfortunately, many States are lacking in the implementation of their OSCE commitments to combat trafficking, as this report reflects.
The OSCE is uniquely situated to address the multi-dimensional problem of trafficking in persons, and we must fully embrace the opportunity presented by this gathering. Failing this regional cooperation, we will not succeed and the traffickers will prevail. The good news is that many governments are beginning do this already and deserve commendation for their vision, commitment and creativity.
Regional sharing of resources and best practices is vital. The United States will continue to contribute funds, resources and ideas to help you in your fight, because it is our fight, too. We receive your citizens, who are brought to our shores as trafficking victims and we must work together to see them freed.
There are many things we can do now, together. For example, we can create a repository for documents, models and ideas. ODIHR is strategically placed to serve as this coordinating body for all OSCE participating States. Also, the United States encourages all governments to utilize ODIHR’s extensive legislative resources, including “Legislation On-line” which was created for both government and non-government actors. States should also give ODIHR copies of legislation and other anti-trafficking materials in local languages to help others design similar tools. Also, States with an OSCE field presence can engage those offices as resources for legal and judicial reform and police training.
As representatives of governments, we must join with and seek out opportunities to empower NGOs. At the most practical level, governmental bureaucracies may be unable to provide the long-term, personal assistance that victims need to recover physically and emotionally from their trauma. By contrast, specialized NGOs are often best suited to these demands, particularly those attuned to the spiritual and cultural background of the victim. Certain governments with limited resources have bolstered anti-trafficking efforts by providing in-kind assistance to NGOs or international organizations, such as office space in a government-owned building. Even modest help can go a long way to empowering NGOs.
In the United States, the Department of Justice has written and is disseminating a guidebook for NGOs which describes the problem of trafficking in human beings, explains the anti-trafficking law, and identifies government resources available to assist victims of trafficking. In addition, the anti-trafficking office at the Department of State meets regularly with NGOs to exchange information on anti-trafficking activities.
There are additional ways for States to empower NGO cooperation. First, sexual exploitation or forced labor laws must be clearly established in domestic law, before NGOs can truly do their job properly. We have seen much progress on this front over the past year where a number of countries are working on new or improved anti-trafficking legislation and victim protections. We hope to see such measures promptly enacted and faithfully implemented, in all source, transit and destination countries throughout the OSCE region. The United States again calls on all participating States to pass legislation to criminalize trafficking for sexual exploitation or forced labor, accompanied by appropriately strong penalties.
Then, once enacted, law enforcement authorities must be made aware of the law and properly trained to implement it at national and local levels. Civil society can play an important role at this juncture by informing traumatized victims who do not understand their legal options and who may distrust authority figures. Yet that same traumatized victim may be emboldened to talk with law enforcement officers after support from a compassionate and knowledgeable NGO representative who is looking out for the best interest of the victim.
Finally, I want to mention the importance of information gathering and uniform data collection. Reliable data is the best baseline from which to make policy and practical decisions on trafficking. In the past year, the Romanian Government, despite a dearth of resources, expended significant effort toward data collection with impressive results. We encourage other OSCE States to initiate aggressive, government-sponsored data collection efforts, particularly Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
Session on Advocacy and Assistance: Promoting and Ensuring the Rights Trafficked Persons
For countries of destination for trafficked persons, the question of ensuring the rights of trafficked persons may be the most difficult aspect of addressing the human trafficking issue. Governments may be properly concerned that benefits for trafficking victims will not reach the most vulnerable, and instead, may be abused by those merely seeking to migrate illegally. Putting this concern to rest depends on implementing reliable systems of victim identification, as discussed in the morning session. This, in turn, instills confidence that precious resources go to the true victims.
At the Berlin Conference, experienced anti-slavery advocates argued that without appropriate prevention and protection measures, the “rescued” victim is likely to fall back into desperate straits. U.S. policy reflects this understanding. While prosecutors in the United States have begun seeking indictments under the new anti-trafficking law, the federal government is also funding programs to protect and assist victims during the prosecution cycle. New requirements include victim access to legal information and translation services, and training for government officials responsible for these cases.
There are two priority issues the U.S. Delegation wishes to stress, in light of the OSCE commitments on victim protection. First, upon identifying a person as a victim of trafficking, the Vienna Ministerial Decision commitments require that they must not face prosecution solely because they have been trafficked and lack legal immigration status. Protection from prosecution should be clearly stated in all legal codes. We are concerned that in some countries, particularly Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, and Turkey, victims of trafficking continue to be subject to criminal sanctions for illegal border crossings or prostitution which resulted from having been trafficked. All participating States must screen potential victims before prosecutions or deportations.
Second, the United States urges OSCE participating States to fulfill their Vienna Ministerial commitment to "consider adopting legislative or other appropriate measures . . . which permit victims of trafficking in persons to remain in the [country], temporarily or permanently in appropriate cases." We recognize the complex political considerations at issue with temporary residence permits for victims of trafficking in countries of destination. Many concerns were voiced in the United States when legislation was under consideration to create a new status for trafficking victims.
The so-called “T-visa” ultimately enacted into U.S. law for trafficking victims reflects a compromise of these concerns which still offers refuge for those who qualify. In the United States, a victim of trafficking is eligible to remain in the United States if he or she "would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal." If the victim is more than 15 years old, the issuance of this immigration status is also tied to a victim's compliance with "any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking." The regulations needed to grant the new status were introduced in January of this year. There have been a number of applicants for this status already and visas are being issued to qualified applicants. The application form used to apply for the T-visa is available on the internet. http://www.ins.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/i-914.htm. We encourage other delegations to consider adopting similar measures.