| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

In a first, U.S. warns of dangers of systemic racism in human trafficking report

Human trafficking is perpetuated by discriminatory policies, according to a report released by the US State Department on Thursday, which is the first time the two have been linked.

In the Trafficking in Persons report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that structural racism causes disparities, undermining Washington’s fight against human trafficking.

It was the first time, according to a State Department official, that the study made a link to institutional racism.

Since nationwide riots last year started by the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer, the United States has been re-examining its treatment of African Americans.

U.S. authorities have warned of increased threats from white supremacist groups.

“While the United States’ efforts to combat human trafficking have expanded in magnitude and sophistication over time,” the report stated, “the United States continues to grapple with how to address the uneven effects of human trafficking on racial minority groups.”

It claimed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human trafficking, claiming that traffickers profited from the outbreak while governments redirected resources to combat the disease.

The research categorized countries and territories into four levels, lowering certain countries like Ethiopia while upgrading others.


The United States faulted Ethiopia for not demonstrating increased efforts to eliminate trafficking.

The report highlighted the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region that has killed thousands of people, displaced more than 2 million people and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.

The report said that since the conflict began in November, international organizations increasingly reported armed actors were responsible for committing human rights abuses and gender-based violence, including potential trafficking crimes.

Ethiopians seeking asylum in Sudan were increasingly vulnerable to trafficking and unaccompanied children in the conflict areas may be vulnerable to recruitment by non-state armed groups, the report also warned.


Belarus was cited for “key achievements” even if, as the report said, resident Alexander Lukashenko’s government did not “fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The report made no mention of Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on ongoing protests over his claim of victory in a 2020 presidential election widely seen as being rigged.


Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, was cited for “making significant efforts” toward eliminating human trafficking, the report said.

However, the government failed to meet minimum standards in a number of areas, including fining, jailing and deporting foreign workers for prostitution or immigration violations even though many may have been trafficking victims, the report said.


Even after accounting for the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the study said Israel, Washington’s closest Middle Eastern ally, had fought to eliminate human trafficking, but its efforts “weren’t serious and sustained” compared to the previous reporting period.

It said that victim identification policies “re-traumatized” victims and delayed their access to needed assistance for years, while the government lowered its overall efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers.

Official policies toward foreign workers “increased their vulnerability to trafficking,” the report said, while the only police unit officially charged with identifying trafficking victims remained under-staffed for a fifth straight year.


Turkey was added to the US list of countries implicated in the use of child soldiers during the past year, marking the first time that a NATO partner has been included in such a list, a move that is expected to aggravate already strained relations between Ankara and Washington.


Following a series of complaints from rights groups and US officials over the alleged exploitation of migrant workers in plantations and factories, the State Department lowered Malaysia to the worst classification.

  • Reuters