The US Trafficking in Persons Report has always failed to explain how it gets its information in more than the sketchiest of ways, as I point out in June of every year. For an instrument with so much money and potential interfering impact behind it, the TIP is as untransparent as any CIA operation.
Secrecy is a strategy that wants to make us believe we might endanger some innocent victim or jeopardise some crucial operation if we know too much. This is the excuse governments use when they are at war, when all kinds of transparency and freedom of information are characterised as dangerous, because the enemy may hear it and benefit. Once we have been frightened by the idea that sinister people will benefit if we ask questions, the government classifies the information, so we cannot see it either.
In the case of research done to find out about trafficking, the government not only doesn’t give us the details, it doesn’t give the main ideas, either. So the methodology section of the report, year after year, is a no-methodology section that just says they get information from a number of sources. Undoubtedly the CIA is relied on. The general public is invited to send whatever misgivings and fantasies they have, too, along with more substantiated claims: this invitation is buried where few will see it, like in the Federal Register. The reason I am running this bureaucratic exercise here is that anyone with reports or documents critical of government policy may also respond. Note that although they never give sources, you are expected to. The prose is tedious, but I am not cutting it.
Submissions may include written narratives that answer the questions presented in this Notice, research, studies, statistics, fieldwork, training materials, evaluations, assessments, and other relevant evidence of local, state and federal government efforts. To the extent possible, precise dates should be included. Where applicable, written narratives providing factual information should provide citations to sources and copies of the source material should be provided. If possible, send electronic copies of the entire submission, including source material. If primary sources are utilized, such as research studies, interviews, direct observations, or other sources of quantitative or qualitative data, details on the research or data-gathering methodology should be provided. The Department does not include in the report, and is therefore not seeking, information on prostitution, human smuggling, visa fraud, or child abuse, unless such conduct occurs in the context of human trafficking.
Here comes the list of what they want to know, which I’ve highlighted in places. A lot of it is dull and general, but there are opportunities to give them specific evidence critical of their own policies.
III. Information Sought Relevant to the Minimum Standards
. . . 1. How have trafficking methods changed in the past 12 months? (E.g., are there victims from new countries of origin? Is internal trafficking or child trafficking increasing? Has sex trafficking changed from brothels to private apartments? Is labor trafficking now occurring in additional types of industries or agricultural operations? Is forced begging a problem?) I suppose it won’t be so easy for them to make raids if flats are used.
2. In what ways has the government’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons changed in the past year? What new laws, regulations, policies, and implementation strategies exist (e.g., substantive criminal laws and procedures, mechanisms for civil remedies, and victim-witness security, generally, and in relation to court proceedings)?
3. Please provide observations regarding the implementation of existing laws and procedures. If you have something negative to say about raids, do it here.
4. Is the government equally vigorous in pursuing labor trafficking and sex trafficking? Let them know if they are only interested in sex.
5. Are the anti-trafficking laws and sentences strict enough to reflect the nature of the crime? Are sex trafficking sentences commensurate with rape sentences? Does this comparison make sense?
6. Do government officials understand the nature of trafficking? If not, please provide examples of misconceptions or misunderstandings. Weigh in here, by all means.
7. Do judges appear appropriately knowledgeable and sensitized to trafficking cases? What sentences have courts imposed upon traffickers? How common are suspended sentences and prison time of less than one year for convicted traffickers?
8. Please provide observations regarding the efforts of police and prosecutors to pursue trafficking cases. Tell them.
9. Are government officials (including law enforcement) complicit in human trafficking by, for example, profiting from, taking bribes, or receiving sexual services for allowing it to continue? Are government officials operating trafficking rings or activities? If so, have these government officials been subject to an investigation and/or prosecution? What punishments have been imposed?
10. Has the government vigorously investigated, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced nationals of the country deployed abroad as part of a peacekeeping or other similar mission who engage in or facilitate trafficking?
11. Has the government investigated, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced organized crime groups that are involved in trafficking?
12. Is the country a source of sex tourists and, if so, what are their destination countries? Is the country a destination for sex tourists and, if so, what are their source countries? This is beyond ridiculous. They don’t define sex tourism, and I feel sure they receive bagfuls of silly anecdotal stuff about foreigners, older men seen with young people and heaven knows what else. Shows the tendency to lump everything into one bag, trafficking.
13. Please provide observations regarding government efforts to address the issue of unlawful child soldiering.
14. Does the government make a coordinated, proactive effort to identify victims? Is there any screening conducted before deportation to determine whether individuals were trafficked?
15. What victim services are provided (legal, medical, food, shelter, interpretation, mental health care, health care, repatriation)? Who provides these services? If nongovernment organizations provide the services, does the government support their work either financially or otherwise?
16. How could victim services be improved? As far as I’m concerned this is the most important question we can respond to, with evidence about the inappropriate infantilisation of women placed in rehabilitation projects. Tell them.
17. Are services provided equally and adequately to victims of labor and sex trafficking? Men, women, and children? Citizen and noncitizen? Tell them.
18. Do service organizations and law enforcement work together cooperatively, for instance, to share information about trafficking trends or to plan for services after a raid? What is the level of cooperation, communication, and trust between service organizations and law enforcement?
19. May victims file civil suits or seek legal action against their trafficker? Do victims avail themselves of those remedies?
20. Does the government repatriate victims? Does the government assist with third country resettlement? Does the government engage in any analysis of whether victims may face retribution or hardship upon repatriation to their country of origin? Are victims awaiting repatriation or third country resettlement offered services? Are victims indeed repatriated or are they deported?
21. Does the government inappropriately detain or imprison identified trafficking victims? Tell them.
22. Does the government punish trafficking victims for forgery of documents, illegal immigration, unauthorized employment, or participation in illegal activities directed by the trafficker?
23. What efforts has the government made to prevent human trafficking?
24. Are there efforts to address root causes of trafficking such as poverty; lack of access to education and economic opportunity; and discrimination against women, children, and minorities?
25. Does the government undertake activities that could prevent or reduce vulnerability to trafficking, such as registering births of indigenous populations?
26. Does the government provide financial support to NGOs working to promote public awareness or does the government implement such campaigns itself? Have public awareness campaigns proven to be effective?
27. Please provide additional recommendations to improve the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.
28. Please highlight effective strategies and practices that other governments could consider adopting.
Department of State Public Notice 7744
Here is the introduction to these questions. Note the deadline is obnoxiously soon.
Request for Information for the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report
Summary: The Department of State (“the Department”) requests written information to assist in reporting on the degree to which the United States and foreign governments comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons (“minimum standards”) that are prescribed by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, (Div. A, Pub. L. 106-386) as amended (“TVPA”). This information will assist in the preparation of the Trafficking in Persons Report (“TIP Report”) that the Department submits annually to appropriate committees in the U.S. Congress on countries’ level of compliance with the minimum standards. Foreign governments that do not comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so may be subject to restrictions on nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance from the United States, as defined by the TVPA. Submissions must be made in writing to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Department of State by February 13, 2012. Please refer to the Addresses, Scope of Interest and Information Sought sections of this Notice for additional instructions on submission requirements.
DATES: Submissions must be received by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons by 5 p.m. on February 13, 2012.
ADDRESSES: Written submissions and supporting documentation may be submitted to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons by the following methods:
Facsimile (fax): (202) 312-9637.
Mail, Express Delivery, Hand Delivery and Messenger
Service: U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP), 1800 G Street NW., Suite 2148, Washington, DC 20520. Please note that materials submitted by mail may be delayed due to security screenings and processing.
Email (preferred): tipreport [at] state.gov for submissions related to foreign governments and tipreportUS [at] state.gov for submissions related to the United States.
Scope of Interest: The Department requests information relevant to assessing the United States’ and foreign governments’ compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons in the year 2011. The minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons are listed in the Background section. Submissions must include information relevant and probative of the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons and should include, but need not be limited to, answering the questions in the Information Sought section. These questions are designed to elicit information relevant to the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.
Only those questions for which the submitter has direct professional experience should be answered and that experience should be noted. For any critique or deficiency described, please provide a recommendation to remedy it. Note the country or countries that are the focus of the submission.
Submissions may include written narratives that answer the questions presented in this Notice, research, studies, statistics, fieldwork, training materials, evaluations, assessments, and other relevant evidence of local, state and federal government efforts. To the extent possible, precise dates should be included. Where applicable, written narratives providing factual information should provide citations to sources and copies of the source material should be provided. If possible, send electronic copies of the entire submission, including source material.If primary sources are utilized, such as research studies, interviews, direct observations, or other sources of quantitative or qualitative data, details on the research or data-gathering methodology should be provided. The Department does not include in the report, and is therefore not seeking, information on prostitution, human smuggling, visa fraud, or child abuse, unless such conduct occurs in the context of human trafficking.
Confidentiality: Please provide the name, phone number, and email address of a single point of contact for any submission. It is Department practice not to identify in the TIP Report information concerning sources in order to safeguard those sources. Please note, however, that any information submitted to the Department may be releasable pursuant to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act or other applicable law. When applicable, portions of submissions relevant to efforts by other U.S. government agencies may be shared with those agencies.
Response: This is a request for information only; there will be no response to submissions.
Federal Register Volume 76, Number 250 (Thursday, December 29, 2011), Notices, Page 82029
–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist