Globally, more than 20 million people are believed to be ensnared in some form of human trafficking, according to the International Labour Organisation. The number of victims of human trafficking in Uganda has steadily continued to increase since 2011. On June 20, the United States Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons report (TIP report).
The TIP report is the US government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and reflects the US government’s commitment to global leadership on human trafficking. The TIP report represents an updated, global look at the nature and scope of human trafficking and the broad range of government actions to confront and eliminate it. The report is used to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-human trafficking reforms and combat human trafficking and also target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution programmes.
The TIP report presents a three tier evaluation of efforts by 188 countries to combat human trafficking. Countries ranked on tier one are those that are actually meeting the minimum standards of fighting human trafficking. The minimum standards are provided for in the US trafficking law of 2000, but really track the international standards and best practices that are evident around the world. A tier two country is one that is not meeting the minimum standards but is striving to do so and has results that evidence that it is doing a decent job, but could definitely improve. This is where Uganda has stagnated for the last couple of years. There is then a Tier two Watch List which includes countries with a high number of victims of human trafficking, or where the numbers are significantly increasing. It also includes countries where there’s insufficient evidence of acceptable efforts to improve anti-trafficking programmes.
The lowest tier is tier three; this is for countries that are not responding sufficiently to the human trafficking problem, are not complying with the minimum standards and demonstrate no effort in tackling human trafficking. A Tier three status creates culpability and can subject a country to varied reactions from the US government. The reactions can manifest in the form of reduced financial support where the US government may use the designation to withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian and non-trade related assistance. Tier three countries could also face US opposition in obtaining development aid from international financial institutions like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund, among others. The three tier ranking is essentially a very direct way the US government compels countries to initiate efforts and respond better to combating human trafficking.
What does the TIP report mean to Uganda? The office to combat trafficking in persons at the Ministry of Internal Affairs will tell you that most Ugandan victims of transnational human trafficking have been trafficked to countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and even Libya. All these countries are ranked in Tier three according to the 2014 TIP report while China is ranked on Tier two watch list. The ranking typically indicts these countries on their limited efforts to combat human trafficking.
Formal licensed labour exporting companies will tell you that they do not receive job orders from these countries which then begs the question of whether legitimate job opportunities actually exist for non or semi skilled Ugandans travelling to Tier 3 countries. We might want to be just a little more cautious as we pursue opportunities abroad!
Ms Mafabi is a lawyer