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US removes Saudi Arabia from list of 'worst human traffickers', adds Algeria

Saudi Arabia has a long list of human rights abuses [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 June, 2020

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The United States has removed the Saudi kingdom from its Tier 3 trafficking list.
The United States has removed ally Saudi Arabia from its list of the worst offenders of human trafficking after just one year of being added, while elevating Algeria to a higher level.

The State Department released its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report and said the Saudi kingdom had made “key achievements” in the last year, warranting its removal from the third tier, which is where countries subjected to US controls are placed.

Saudi Arabia implemented a referral system to provide care for victims of trafficking, and the report says the government transparently reported data referring to increased prosecutions and convictions under its anti-trafficking law.

The report added Saudi authorities had “criminally convicted and sentenced to stringent imprisonment terms two Saudi officials complicit in trafficking crimes during the year.”

Saudi Arabia moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

"The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so," the report said.

Countries in Tier 3, which is where Saudi Arabia had been placed, are subject to consequences from the US, such as facing cuts to “non-humanitarian non-trade related foreign assistance” and to “government official or employee participation in educational and cultural exchange programs,” the report states.

Countries in Tier 2 – including Saudi Arabia – are not subject to such consequences but are still expected to make reforms to combat trafficking.

Saudi Arabia was one of five countries removed from the list of worst offenders.

The State Department also decided to remove five other countries from the list of the worst countries for trafficking human beings: Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gambia, while adding four countries to the list, namely: Algeria, Afghanistan, Lesotho and Nicaragua.

Afghanistan “is not making significant efforts” to eliminate trafficking, the report said, noting Afghan security forces “continued to recruit and use children in combat and non-combat roles with impunity”.

Meanwhile, "up to 50,000 Cuban doctors have been forced by the Castro regime into human trafficking situations in more than 60 countries around the globe. They are the regime's number one source of income," the US added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the report at the State Department alongside White House senior adviser, Ivanka Trump.

"We take government-sponsored trafficking very seriously. It's a perversion of any government's reason for existence: to protect rights, not crush them," Pompeo said.

"The United States will not stand by as any government with a policy or pattern of human trafficking subjects its own citizens to this kind of oppression."

In 2019 Saudi Arabia was listed as a Tier 3 country because it did not make enough of an effort to prosecute those conducting human and sex trafficking.

Libya and Yemen remain “special” cases for a fifth year due to the difficulty in obtaining accurate statistical information on human trafficking. Meanwhile, Syria and Iran are the only Middle Eastern countries that remain listed as Tier 3.

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