2019 TIP Report Calls on Governments to Dispel Misperceptions About Human Trafficking and Movement

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Victims of human trafficking show the state of their hands after being compelled to work mining coal to pay off their debt. Sometimes mine owners force whole families to work their entire lives to repay a debt or obligation.
Victims of human trafficking show the state of their hands after being compelled to work mining coal to pay off their debt.

2019 TIP Report Calls on Governments to Dispel Misperceptions About Human Trafficking and Movement

Today marks the release of the 19th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, an analysis of 187 countries which serves as a benchmark for the progress the world is making in the battle against human trafficking; an issue that affects every corner of the globe.

Human trafficking affects an estimated 24.9 million individuals around the world, as traffickers generate billions of dollars each year at the expense of their victims and to the detriment of our communities. Perpetrators benefit from this crime not only by exploiting individuals – whether in fields or factories, on fishing boats or in brothels – but also by taking advantage of apathy and ignorance about the nature of this crime. A common misconception is that trafficking requires a cross-border element, when in reality, 77 percent of trafficking victims identified were hurt inside country borders with no element of transnational movement involved. A correct understanding of the definition of human trafficking is essential to properly identifying victims and implementing solutions.

This year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report calls upon all governments to ensure they are addressing all forms of human trafficking and to reject the common misunderstanding that human trafficking requires movement across borders or even to another town. Addressing this misperception and institutionalizing a clear understanding of the realities of this crime lays the foundation for a comprehensive anti-trafficking strategy.

This year, we saw great strides in government responses to trafficking within their own borders, and we applaud these steps. It can often be difficult for governments to see past deeply ingrained practices within their own country, and at times governments can even become complicit in these practices. We saw noteworthy action on this front from governments who examined traffickers exploiting cultural practices and taking advantage of religious beliefs to coerce victims into servitude. However, we continue to urge governments to comprehensively address the issues found within their borders. Trafficking is a crime that relies on deception and coercion, and we can dismantle misconceptions and improve victim identification by coming to a correct understanding of the nature of this crime.

In the midst of the improvements that governments will continue to make, we can celebrate the fact that every country now has some sort of law to criminalize human trafficking. Governments around the world have come to the consensus that trafficking is wrong and that traffickers infringe on the inherent dignity of their victims. But treaties, laws, and protocols must be put into action if the millions of global human trafficking victims are to find relief. As this year’s TIP Report introduction notes, misconceptions and biases about what constitutes human trafficking must be addressed so that we may be quick to identify human trafficking in all its forms. 

As Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, I am proud of this office’s efforts to engage in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, and public engagement to advance the anti-trafficking movement. The team at the Trafficking in Persons Office works tirelessly with governments around the world to improve their policies and laws to stop traffickers, protect victims, and dismantle systems that enable traffickers to thrive. The culmination of this effort is the annual production of the TIP Report, which is the result of extensive research and analysis by staff in Washington and U.S. embassies and missions around the world, informed by the Department’s engagement with foreign officials, NGOs, faith communities, and international organizations.

The battle to prevent this crime, protect its victims, and prosecute the traffickers is long and arduous, but the crime of trafficking is not inevitable. The work of our generation is to build a delivery system of justice that provides victims comprehensive, victim-centered, and trauma informed protection services, prevent the crime through highly targeted and measurable interventions, and increase the risk for traffickers by prosecuting them and stopping them from harming others. With a focused approach to our collective anti-trafficking efforts, we can and will make a difference.

About the Author: John Cotton Richmond serves as the Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking-in-Persons at the U.S. Department of State.