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U.S. Department of State

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Frank E. Loy
Under Secretary for Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Written Testimony Submitted for the Record to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
Washington, DC, February 22, 2000

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Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the problem of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, around the world and the implementation of the United States strategy in combating this problem. I commend the commitment that you have demonstrated to address this problem. Mr. Chairman, your efforts to address this important issue in the context of your new role with the OSCE is most welcome. Your advocacy and attention to the needs of victims will continue to be crucial to accomplishing our shared goals.

I am joined here today by Theresa Loar, Director of the President's Interagency Council on Women, and Harold Koh, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Introduction

Sometimes humans inflict upon each other unspeakable, nearly unimaginable, horrors. Yet it is important -- indeed we have a responsibility -- to speak about such disturbing circumstances -- to cast light upon reprehensible acts -- to better understand how to eradicate their insidious presence from this world.

Trafficking in persons, predominantly women and children, is one such chilling reality. How does one make sense in this modern day and age of the persistent and growing practice of trafficking? It seems impossible that there is an enormous trade in the buying and selling of human beings. And yet it is all too true. The stories of trafficking victims are filled with suffering, misery, violence and death. It is one of the most egregious human rights abuses of our time and its existence is intolerable and repugnant to the United States government. We are here today to talk about it in hopes of working with you to continue progress towards its eradication.

As this hearing will illuminate, trafficking in women and children is a very complex problem. Although it is sometimes characterized as a "women's issue" it is in fact a multi-faceted and global issue, involving human rights, economics, migration, organized crime and corruption, labor, and public and individual health. The link between trafficking and these issues underscores its significance as an important foreign and domestic policy concern.

It is impossible to overstate the horror of the trafficking. It is reported that in some villages in parts of Southeast Asia there are few young women and girls left. Where have they gone? The answer is that agents for traffickers descend upon villages and harvest these children like a profitable crop to take to market -- sometimes drugging and abducting, sometimes luring and enticing, sometimes simply buying them-- to sell into brothels or to force them to perform a wide range of labor and forms of servitude.

The frightening ease of purchasing a child is documented in the film "Selling of Innocents" by Ruchira Gupta, who I understand will testify later in this hearing.

In another common trafficking scenario, babies are torn from the arms of mothers and sold to be used as props in begging schemes. Old women also are abducted and forced to beg. Sometimes traffickers will maim the old women to increase sympathy and make them more effective beggars.

In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, scores of young women, yearning for economic independence within economies that offer few jobs, decide to leave their homes for promised jobs in other countries. Traffickers may operate through nominally reputable employment, travel or entertainment companies, or marriage agencies. Victims are lured with false advertisements and promises of jobs as models, dancers, waitresses, and maids. Traffickers offer prospects for travel and exciting cultural experiences. Corruption among government officials often facilitates the success of trafficking.

Once the women arrive at their destination, their passports are confiscated by the traffickers and the victims are subjected to extreme physical and mental abuse, including rape, torture, starvation, imprisonment, death threats and physical brutality to ensure that they comply with the demands of the traffickers.

Even with escape, there is rarely healing or recovery. Women trafficked into the sex industry are coerced by their criminal captors to engage in activities that will expose them to deadly diseases, including HIV and AIDS. We understand that of the thousands of women and girls trafficked from Nepal annually -- many of whom are in their early teens and younger -- of the few hundred who may escape, more than 65 percent are HIV-positive.

This is only a small sampling of the types of trafficking cases that are reported. The criminals are sophisticated and trafficking variations seem endless. Moreover, criminal syndicates continue to adapt with new schemes as they are confronted with enforcement against their ongoing operations.

Last March, the Secretary of State met with trafficking victims in northern Thailand. She saw firsthand the heart-breaking devastation suffered by these young women -- indeed mostly girls -- who had their childhood robbed from them when traffickers had sold them into prostitution. The stories of the horror these girls faced reinforced the strong resolve of the Secretary to do whatever it takes to fight trafficking, help the victims, and put the perpetrators behind bars.

Similarly haunting stories have been echoed by other victims to United States officials in countries such as Italy, the Philippines, the Ukraine, Albania, Nigeria, Thailand, and Mexico. Girls told of being forced into domestic servitude where they were beaten and raped. The suffering of boys was evident from their mangled bodies, their growth stunted, spines bent almost in half from the oppressive weights they were forced to carry in the construction industry until they were rescued.

One does not come away from hearing of these experiences unchanged. These encounters have deepened United States commitment to use the full force of our government to confront and stop trafficking. The Secretary of State has made her views crystal clear: "[T]he women who have been victimized deserve to have their voices heard. And if we apply a standard of zero tolerance to those who sell illegal drugs, we should be at least as tough in opposing those who buy and sell human beings."

What is the nature and magnitude of trafficking?

At its core, the international trade in women and children is about abduction, coercion, violence and exploitation in the most reprehensible ways.

A trafficking scheme involves a continuum of actors and actions. It includes recruitment, abduction, transport, harboring, transfer, sale or receipt of persons through various types of coercion, force, fraud or deception for the purpose of placing persons in situations of slavery or slavery-like conditions, servitude, forced labor or services. Examples include, but are not limited to, sexual servitude, coerced prostitution, domestic servitude, bonded sweatshop labor or other debt bondage.

Use of minors in sexual activities does not require deception or force and is per se trafficking in these types of schemes.

Men are also trafficked, particularly into forced labor, but emphasizing trafficking in women and children is warranted because they are the predominant targets of traffickers.

Clearly, even one case of trafficking cannot be tolerated. Sadly, estimates by non-governmental organizations typically have placed the number of trafficked persons within the 1-2 million range. Some estimates have been as high as 4 million.

The underground nature of trafficking makes it virtually invisible and obtaining reliable estimates of the magnitude of trafficking has been difficult.

Because of the absence of any governmental figures on trafficking, the Clinton Administration became the first to attempt to quantify trafficking in women and children. Created to work under the auspices of the National Security Council and as part of the President's International Crime Control Strategy Initiative, an interagency working group was tasked with focusing attention on transnational crime implications of trafficking.

This process has produced the first preliminary U.S. government estimates of trafficking to the United States. Globally, there are over 700,000 women and children trafficked annually across international borders. 45,000-50,000 are trafficked annually into the United States, primarily from Latin America, Russia, the Newly Independent States and Southeast Asia.

This initial effort is significant in several respects. First, because of the conservative assumptions -- particularly its exclusion of trafficking within countries -- the estimate tends to provide support to non-governmental estimates of trafficking at a level of over a million victims a year.

Second, it is clear that the problem involves much more than sex trafficking. Approximately half of the 50,000 trafficked to the United States each year are for bonded sweatshop labor and domestic servitude. Trafficking into the commercial sex industry is merely one form of a broader range of trafficking exploited by organized criminal enterprises.

Indeed, traffickers are often engaged in more than one kind of trafficking because they follow the profits. For example, we see cases where girls are lured from a village and the traffickers force some of the girls to work in domestic servitude or carpet weaving, while others, are culled out and sold to brothels. Thus, in the fight against trafficking, there are practical reasons why the United States does not limit its efforts to one form of trafficking over another form.

Alarmingly, the trafficking industry is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world. Profits from the industry are enormous, generating billions of dollars annually to organized criminal groups. Trafficking in women and children is now considered the third largest source of profits for organized crime, behind only drugs and guns. Moreover, there are indications that these growing profits are feeding into criminal syndicates' involvement in other illicit and violent activities. Traffickers know that throughout the world they can reap large profits while facing a relatively low risk of prosecution. Moreover, it has been observed that, unlike drugs or firearms, trafficking in women and children doesn't require capital to start.

Currently, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are the fastest growing regions for trafficking countries of origin.

What are the root causes of trafficking?

While there are numerous contributing factors, economic desperation is at the core of trafficking. The trafficking industry is driven by poverty and economic desperation among women and girls related to their lack of access to economic opportunities, support services, and resources, including credit, land ownership and inheritance.

The low social status of women in many countries contributes as well. Children, and girls in particular, are pulled out of school early, enhancing the likelihood that they will end up in the hands of traffickers. In some places, girls are considered to have less value than a household appliance. The First Lady, who cares deeply about this issue, observed one chilling manifestation of trafficking:

There are girls that I've met in Northern Thailand, when I visited their village I could tell by looking at their parents' homes which ones had sold their daughters into prostitution. The homes were bigger, nicer, they sometimes even had an antenna or satellite on top.

What is the United States strategy for combating trafficking?

The President, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General have all shown tremendous commitment to this issue and the Department of State, Department of Justice and other relevant agencies have made significant progress over the past two years to advance the United States anti-trafficking strategy set forth in a Presidential directive of March 11, 1998.

In his 1998 Presidential Directive on Steps to Combat Violence Against Women and Trafficking in Women and Girls, the first presidential directive ever issued on the subject, President Clinton called trafficking in women and girls a "fundamental human rights violation".

Policy Framework

The Clinton Administration is the first to adopt a comprehensive and integrated policy framework to address trafficking and to establish an interagency mechanism to pull together experts from across the Executive branch to advance this policy in a coordinated fashion, both internationally and domestically.

The United States strategic framework that guides the development of its policies domestically and internationally consists of the "three P's" of:

1) Prevention,
2) Protection and assistance for victims, and
3) Prosecution and enforcement against traffickers.

The Presidential memorandum directed the President's Interagency Council on Women, chaired by the Secretary of State, to lead the development and coordination of the USG's domestic and international policy on this issue.

The Council coordinates the efforts of the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, and Health and Human Services, USAID and the U.S. Information Agency. Within the Department of State, the Council and the Office of the Senior Coordinator work with bureaus covering East Asia and the Pacific, the Near East, Europe, Russia and the Newly Independent States, and South Asia and functional bureaus such as Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Consular Affairs, Diplomatic Security and Population, Refugees and Migration. The Council's work has focused on ways to enhance and institutionalize the treatment of trafficking in U.S. government initiatives.

The Department of Justice deserves much credit for its important efforts. We are pleased to be able to work closely with that Department through the Council on a range of projects to advance these policies. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has made the issue of trafficking a priority for the Department of State. The following is a non-comprehensive summary of some of the Department of State's activities.

Bilateral/Multilateral Initiatives

We have seen how powerful it is to have the American Secretary of State raise this issue with heads of government and her fellow foreign ministers. During her meetings with leaders of Italy, Finland, Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, the Secretary has made it a priority to raise trafficking at the highest levels. As a result of her discussions, the United States has initiated five concrete bilateral working relationships with these countries focusing on prevention, protection and prosecution.

Again, this only highlights some of the United States efforts underway internationally. Other initiatives include efforts in South Asia, Russia and the NIS, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Several important multilateral initiatives are also underway. These include partnerships with the United Nations, European Union, ASEAN and the OSCE. The United States played a lead role in negotiating the International Labor Organization's adoption of Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of Child Labor and reaffirmed its commitment to this effort by becoming one of the first countries to ratify the Convention.

Expanded Human Rights Reporting on Trafficking

The Department recognized the importance of matching the growth of trafficking around the world with more extensive reporting. Consequently, the Department, through the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, has expanded its reporting of trafficking of persons, especially women and children, in the annual Country Reports of Human Rights Practices. The more detailed picture of trafficking that will emerge will help policymakers understand the phenomena and craft sound policies in response.

International Training and Research

I would also like to take this opportunity to underscore the important work of the Department of State's Bureaus of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and Consular Affairs in improving training for law enforcement on trafficking. Trafficking-specific training is being provided for foreign law enforcement -including border enforcement, consular anti-fraud and visa officials -- to recognize trafficking cases and to respond appropriately to help protect victims.

The involvement of law enforcement in developing and promoting protection of the victims of trafficking, even when the victims have crossed international borders and are in undocumented status, is groundbreaking and will be crucial to success in this area.

Later in this hearing, you will receive testimony from Laura Lederer, affiliated with the Women and Public Policy program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, whose research is funded by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. We contracted this work to survey current laws around the world on trafficking and sexual exploitation.

What can Congress do to address the trafficking problem?

While important progress on this issue has been made, much work remains to be done. Congress is essential to the success of these efforts. Internationally, we need to achieve consensus on the UN trafficking protocol being negotiated. The United States will seek agreement later this year on this historic international instrument of cooperation to aid the fight against trafficking. The protocol will set new standards for countries of origin, transit and destination to prevent trafficking, punish traffickers and protect victims.

Because trafficking is a transnational problem, the nations of the world are linked as countries of origin, transit, and destination and will sink or swim together. Most countries do not have trafficking laws. This must be corrected so that there will be nowhere to hide for traffickers.

Domestically, legislation is urgently needed. The Administration supports Congressional efforts that will continue the progress made thus far and expand the tools available to advance the United States agenda on trafficking.

The Administration has worked diligently on a bipartisan basis to assist Congress in crafting legislation and we look forward to continuing these efforts.

And while we have deep concerns about certain provisions of the current House bill, sponsored by Congressman Smith of New Jersey and Congressman Gejdensen, other portions of that bill mirror Administration proposals. We believe that Senator Wellstone's bill, S.1842, goes the furthest in providing needed tools to address trafficking.

The types of legislative measures that the Administration believes would be most helpful include:

PREVENTION -- Prevention measures should include initiatives to provide economic opportunities and increase awareness among potential trafficking victims. Expansion of trafficking information and research collected domestically and in cooperation with our international partners is also needed.

PROTECTION AND ASSISTANCE -- Protection and assistance for victims is critical. Currently there is no effective structural framework for protection and assistance in the United States for trafficked victims. There are very few shelters or other support services designed to meet the particular needs of trafficked women. Moreover, victims are generally ineligible for assistance because most are in the United States unlawfully. In the past, the standard response was immediate deportation.

Legislation is necessary to remedy this. One of the most important measures would be eligibility for temporary residency (through creation of a humanitarian, non-immigrant visa classification) for trafficking victims identified in the United States to allow them to obtain assistance and to aid in the prosecution of traffickers. Current statutory barriers for trafficking victims should be eliminated to permit eligibility for existing programs.

Support for countries to undertake or expand initiatives to protect and reintegrate trafficking victims would be a constructive step.

PROSECUTION AND ENFORCEMENT -- Strengthened enforcement and prosecution against traffickers is crucial because trafficking is growing, in part, because it remains a high profit, relatively low-risk criminal enterprise. Imposing tougher penalties -- up to life imprisonment -- for traffickers and amending the law so that traffickers will not escape prosecution and conviction because of the high standard of proof in involuntary servitude cases, are among the objectives sought by the Administration through legislation. Restitution should be made available statutorily to trafficked victims. To expand the possibility of redress, trafficked victims should be able to bring private civil lawsuits against traffickers.

SUPPORTING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION -- The most constructive approach to accelerate progress will be accomplished in cooperation with countries of origin, transit and destination. Benchmarking and international mutual assessment are among the means available to objectively determine whether a country is making good faith progress in reaching our shared objective of reducing trafficking. We believe there are countries where training and positive incentives would enhance that country's cooperation with our trafficking efforts.

Like the United States, most countries are in the early stages of attempting to address trafficking. These emerging efforts are fragile. Without any calibration, blunt instruments like broad economic sanctions appear likely to disrupt positive progress for even good faith efforts by countries, an drun the risk of harming the very victims we want to help.

Poverty and lack of economic opportunity, disproportionately affecting women and girls, are major forces driving the trafficking industry. Increasing economic development and economic opportunity are central to strategies of trafficking prevention. Some proposals for sanctions are inconsistent with fighting the economic desperation of the potential victims. Their inevitable result will be to lessen the economic opportunities vital to the victim's ability to resist the tragic lure of traffickers.

Congress should reinforce international cooperative efforts, imposing mechanisms based upon benchmarks or goals and incentives to ensure their success.

We are ready to work with Congress to try to craft an effective and mutually-acceptable approach.

Partnership With Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's)

Mr. Chairman, I would like to recognize the critical role played by NGOs in the efforts against trafficking and to affirm our intention to continue a close partnership with them as we develop U.S. programs and policy.

NGOs have courageously convened forums, produced moving documentaries and accurately reported the horrors faced by trafficking victims. At the Vital Voices Women in Democracy Conference in Vienna in July 1997, Council members met networks of NGOs working here in the United States and in the former Soviet Union. We heard from Ukrainian grandmothers who told us in tears of their anguish when young women from their villages were tricked into trafficking schemes. The NGO communities we have worked with include human rights groups, women's groups, service providers and faith groups. We have engaged with these communities in meetings across the United States and overseas and have benefited from this partnership.

I might note that the President's directive on trafficking was issued on March 8, 1998, at an event celebrating International Women's Day. This year, some non-governmental groups and concerned individuals intend to mark this date, the anniversary of the issuance of first Presidential directive ever issued on this subject, with events in Washington D.C. highlighting the plight of trafficking victims and support this objective.

The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to craft legislation to build upon the initiatives that are underway around the world to eradicate the scourge of trafficking.

Conclusion

The Administration has moved aggressively to combat trafficking and protect its victims. Mr. Chairman, we want to work with you to do more. We must get the world's attention to achieve a global consensus as we head into the 21st century that trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, is unacceptable. As Secretary of State Albright has said, "Our goal, ultimately, is to mobilize people everywhere so that trafficking in human beings is met by a stop sign visible around the equator and from pole to pole."

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[end of document]

Link to Under Secretary Loy's oral testimony.

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