Afghanistan, Iran 'failing to tackle human trafficking'

Afghanistan, Syria, Iran among countries failing to tackle human trafficking: State Department report
3 min read
02 July, 2021
The report found 17 countries fell into the Tier 3 category of states that are not fully meeting the minimum standards to combat human trafficking and 'not making significant efforts to do so.'
Blinken urged that countries 'root out systemic racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination' [Getty]

Afghanistan, Syria and Iran are listed among the countries with the worst human rights records of the year, according to a new report by the US State Department.

The 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report released on Thursday found that the global coronavirus pandemic caused governments to divert resources away from anti-trafficking efforts, "resulting in decreased protection measures and service provision for victims, reduction of preventative efforts, and hindrances to investigations and prosecutions of traffickers."

"If there is one thing we have learned in the last year, it is that human trafficking does not stop during a pandemic," acting Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Kari Johnstone wrote in her introduction to the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

The 2021 report covers the period of 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 and identified governments that are, and are not meeting minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking.

"Because traffickers prey on those who are vulnerable, those who are less likely to have access to good jobs or educational opportunities, who are less likely to be treated as equal by place in the justice system and who are less likely to be believed when they report that they are being targeted or abused," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an event unveiling the report. "If we're serious about ending trafficking of persons, we must also work to root out systemic racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination and to build more equitable society in every dimension."

The report found 17 countries fell into the Tier 3 category, which means they did not fully meet the minimum standards to combat human trafficking and "are not making significant efforts to do so."

These include Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.

Afghanistan's inclusion heightens concerns that US withdrawal could exacerbate an existing issue and tip the country’s fragile government into chaos.

The report comes as US President Joe Biden continues withdrawing troops from the war-torn country in a bid to end America's "forever war".

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Last week, Taliban forces captured Afghanistan’' main Tajikistan border Shir Khan Bandar, with analysts seeing it as an escalation of violence linked to the withdrawal of US troops.

Turkey and China named

The report also named 15 governments, including Turkey and China, for "having governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces, or government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers".

Turkey is the first NATO member to be included on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, according to a senior State Department official.

"As a respected regional leader and member of NATO, Turkey has the opportunity to address this issue the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Syria and Libya," the official said.

China's persecution of its Uighur Muslim population was also identified as a key problem.

"The Chinese government has detained more than one million people in as many as 1200 state-run internment camps throughout Xinjiang," Blinken said at the event.

"Many detainees are subjected to physical violence, sexual abuse, and torture to induce them to work producing apparel, electronics, solar equipment, agricultural products."

"And while the practices are most egregious in Xinjiang, this year's report notes that China has subjected its citizens to coercive labor practices in other parts of the country as well," he said.