Every June I eagerly await the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report the way a normal person might await a new Gaga CD. (One of my most treasured books is the copy of the 2010 TIP Report I got at the official release ceremony.) It’s the global update on where we are in the movement to end modern-day slavery and simultaneously one of the most beautiful and most horrifying public documents I have found. The first 59 pages are illustrated with photographs telling the stories of survivors and victims of human trafficking.
I’ll need to spend more time to digest the full report, but off the top of my head here are the 5 things I think you need to know about this year’s TIP Report:
- Governmental fear of large numbers of illegal immigrants falsely claiming to be trafficking survivors is stunting international efforts to end trafficking; this fear may not be realistic.
- People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, because in many communities they exist at the poisonous nexus of no employment, social stigma, and no resources to fight back.
- Keeping laws and social policies victim-centric is vital. For example, the practice of locking survivors into shelters may help prosecutors pin down their traffickers, but can be profoundly traumatic to the survivors.
- There are some excellent ways to combat human trafficking cheaply–the report highlights work in Rwanda and and Antigua.
- Traffickers are increasingly using tattoos and branding to identify, terrorize, and control their victims.
As awful as all this is, I always feel so hopeful when I finish reading this report. Every year, countries which had been squatting on Tier 2 (meaning they weren’t doing enough to combat trafficking to meet minimum standards but are trying hard) move up to Tier 1. Every year, there are stories of men and women and children who made it out of trafficking situations and are rebuilding their lives. That’s why this is my favorite image in the report by far:
“The year 2012 will mark the 150th anniversary of the date Abraham Lincoln gave notice of the Emancipation Proclamation. That document and the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, following three years later, represent more than policies written on paper. They represent the promise of freedom.”–Trafficking in Persons Report, U.S. State Department, 2012