WASHINGTON: The United States yesterday upgraded Kuwait to Tier 2 in its 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report. According to the annual report issued by the US State Department: “The government of Kuwait does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Kuwait was upgraded to Tier 2.
“The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts by deploying its specialized trafficking unit to initiate more criminal investigations of potential trafficking crimes and more prosecutions under the anti-trafficking law. It referred significantly more potential trafficking victims for protective services, operationalized its central recruitment agency in an attempt to hire and better safeguard the rights of hundreds of domestic workers, and increased enforcement of its domestic worker law.
“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Rather than prosecuting potential criminals for human trafficking, officials continued to routinely use arbitration and administrative penalties to resolve grievances filed by domestic and other migrant workers instead of investigating such cases as human trafficking crimes, and protracted litigation and subsequent appeals processes led most victims to decline to file court cases.
“By not holding traffickers criminally accountable with stringent sentences, the government perpetuated a climate of impunity that failed to deter future crimes. The government did not regularly use standard procedures for proactively identifying victims and continued to detain, prosecute, and deport trafficking victims, including those fleeing forced labor.”
In the report, the US added Saudi Arabia and Cuba to its blacklist of countries that it says are not doing enough to fight human trafficking, a designation that could bring sanctions. The State Department faulted ally Saudi Arabia for rampant violations against its vast foreign labor force and accused adversary Cuba of trafficking through its program of sending doctors overseas. Other countries that remained on Tier 3, the worst ranking in the report, included China, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.
A Tier 3 designation means that the United States can restrict assistance or withdraw support for the country at the International Monetary Fund or other global development bodies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States last year took measures against 22 countries due to the human trafficking designation. “That action and the message that goes with it is very clear – if you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you,” Pompeo said as he presented the report alongside Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser.
Pompeo said that North Korea was involved in human trafficking at the state level through its deployment of workers overseas and said Pyongyang “uses the proceeds to fund nefarious activities”. He also renewed criticism of China for its massive incarceration of an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim members of Turkic-speaking minorities, saying the camps have produced garments, carpets, cleaning supplies and other goods for domestic consumption. China, facing rising international criticism, describes its camps as vocational training centers aimed at reducing extremism.
Cuba is more frequently in the sights of the Trump administration, which said that the communist authorities threatened or coerced doctors to be part of its medical program, in which Havana sends tens of thousands of low-cost doctors around the world. Cuba ended the program last year in Brazil after Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s incoming right-wing president, described it as human trafficking.
The State Department also upgraded two countries from the Tier 3 designation – Laos and Gabon. It credited Laos with providing restitution and services to victims, while Gabon stepped up investigations and signed agreements with neighboring countries in western Africa to combat cross-border trafficking. – Agencies