The United States on Thursday denounced the scourge of human trafficking, calling out forced labor and the little-known but growing problem of boys and young men caught up the trade.
The condemnation came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a report on what he called “concerning trends” in human trafficking.
Blinken blasted the rise in forced labor as worldwide supply chains were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Exploitative employers use a host of tactics to take advantage of lower paid and more vulnerable workers,” he said.
According to State Department anti-trafficking official Cindy Dyer, “traffickers have leveraged pandemic-related economic hardships, increased global youth unemployment and international travel restrictions” to manipulate victims.
These schemes have become “a multibillion-dollar industry” in recent years, she told reporters after Blinken’s presentation.
During his speech, Blinken also pointed to a rise in labor trafficking using online scams.
The annual 188-country State Department report lays out how traffickers in Myanmar, Malaysia, Ghana and Turkey, among other countries, deceived adults and children around the world with fake job offers posted online.
The report lists countries that Washington says are actively engaged in trafficking, including Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Eritrea, North Korea, Iran, Russia, South Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan.
Nations that appear on such lists can be punished with US sanctions or have US aid revoked.
According to Dyer, China is “engaging in a policy or pattern of trafficking.”
“The PRC is actually taking efforts to try to make it more difficult for us to determine if their supply chain is clean for us to determine if forced labor is occurring,” she said, using an acronym for China’s official name.
“We are aggressively monitoring this,” she added, just days before Blinken is set to depart on a rescheduled visit to Beijing.
– Boys and men –
Blinken also emphasized the report’s findings on the trafficking of young boys, which has seen a sharp increase in recent years.
“The percentage of boys identified as victims of human trafficking rose fivefold” between 2004 and 2020, Blinken said, citing a UN report — a higher proportion than among girls, women or men.
“For years there’s been a widely held (perception) — but incorrectly — that trafficking affects exclusively female victims. This false perception has had some quite frankly devastating, intangible consequences” as fewer resources are allocated to support boys caught up in human trafficking, he said.
In addition, “many boys frequently are less likely to seek services and self-identify,” according to Dyer. “And what’s even more troubling is that when they do, services are not always available for them.”
Blinken praised local anti-trafficking efforts in the Seychelles, Hong Kong and Denmark.
©️ Agence France-Presse