The U.S. Department of State released a report last Thursday stating that the number of people vulnerable to being victims of human trafficking has increased over the previous 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, told reporters and journalists on July 1 at the State Department that human trafficking is both “A destabilizing force to economies and societies and an affront to human dignity,” with an estimated 25 million victims throughout the world.
Blinken went on to say, “In many places, as governments diverted resources to try to control the pandemic and address its secondary impacts, human traffickers seized the opportunity to grow their operations.”
“People who were pushed into dire economic circumstances by the pandemic became more vulnerable to exploitation. And as more people spent hours online for school and work, traffickers used the internet to groom and recruit potential victims.” Blicken added, “The pandemic has had a real impact on this fight.”
Trafficking in Persons Report
The “Trafficking in Persons” report is released by the State Department every year. Reporters were told by a senior State Department official on Thursday that the report is “the U.S. government’s principal diplomatic and diagnostic tool to guide relations with foreign governments on human trafficking” and is the “world’s most comprehensive resource on government anti-trafficking efforts.” There were 185 different countries and territories examined by the report for 2021, including the United States.
According to Blinken, the report also examines state-sponsored human trafficking. This includes abuse that has been committed against the Uyghurs by the Chinese government. He told reporters, “Many detainees are subjected to physical violence, sexual abuse, and torture to induce them to work producing apparel, electronics, solar equipment, and agricultural products.”
Blinken went on to say that the 2021 report “explicitly acknowledges the connection between systematic inequality and human trafficking.”
He continued, “This is something many countries need to grapple with, including the United States. Part of doing right by our people means taking a hard look at the ways that our history and our policies have created the conditions for crimes like 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 police or the justice system, and who are less likely to be believed when they report that they’re being targeted or abused.”
“If we’re serious about ending the trafficking of persons, we must also work to root out systemic racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, and to build a more equitable society in every dimension,” Blinken continued. “These goals go hand in hand. So let’s keep that in mind as we work to build back better from the devastation of the pandemic.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) gave a statement calling the report “a critical tool that the United States has to monitor and assess our government’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking.” Rubio continued, “From the systematic use of forced labor of Uyghurs, and other minorities, at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or the Cuban regime’s manipulation of the COVID-19 pandemic as a scheme to lead their medical brigades that are stained with human trafficking, we must remain vigilant and push measures to end these forms of slavery and hold the perpetrators accountable. The United States must remain committed to imposing a cost on nations that fail to eliminate human trafficking in all its forms.”
2021’s TIP Report Heroes
In every year’s report, the State Department will recognize “outstanding individuals around the world who are fighting to end human trafficking” as “TIP Report Heroes.” The honorees for the 2021 report included Sister Imelda Poole of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary congregation. She is also president of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation. This is an organization of European religious women who fight human trafficking. Poole and her staff were commended by the report for working with over 3,000 victims.
How will this affect the U.S.? What changes will be made?
This is a report that is released by the State Department every year. While I haven’t read the report released in 2020, I’m willing to bet there is not too much difference between the areas of the world most affected in 2020 and the countries for this year.
What exactly are we doing to make any difference in these places? How many of these countries have received any form of COVID relief funding from the United States, and why if they are not using the information on the report to make a difference? Senator Rubio called the report “a critical tool that the United States has to monitor and assess our government’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking.” How exactly are we going to use this “critical tool” in a way that creates a change?
Jeffrey Stevens is a published author and is currently earning his second degree in theology from Aidan University. His writing career has focussed on living the Christian faith, mixed with some sports writing from time to time.
Jeffrey regularly writes on his personal website and blog, “The Catholic Wordsmith.” In addition, he’s written articles about his faith on websites such as Big Pulpit, Catholic 365, Catholic Stand, and Joshua’s Outpost. As a sports writer, Jeffrey has written articles that have been published on Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Bleacher Report.
Jeffrey can be heard hosting “The Catholic Wordsmith Show” available on Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and RadioPublic.