The United States has removed Cuba and Malaysia from its list of human trafficking violators, however Pakistan retains its position in the US State Department Trafficking in Persons report for 2015. It remains on the tier-2 watch list of countries that face a major trafficking problem but are also making significant efforts to improve the situation.
Both Cuba and Malaysia have been upgraded to tier 2 from tier 3. Countries in tier 3 may be subject to certain sanctions, such as withholding non-humanitarian, non-trade-related US foreign assistance. Countries on tier 3 may also not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programmes.
Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in Washington that the move was politically motivated. “You have to earn your way up the ladder, not just have political expediency be the reason that you get moved from tier 3,” he said to reporters.
Myanmar, which has spent three consecutive years on the tier-2 watch list, also avoided automatic degradation to tier 3, as required by relevant US laws. Apparently, the government gave it a waiver to keep it where it was.
The report notes that in Pakistan, children as young as five years old are sold or kidnapped for forced labour in brick kilns. Some kiln owners hold government positions and use their power to facilitate illegal activities.
The report classifies Pakistan as a source and transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
The country’s biggest human trafficking problem is bonded labour, in which an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment is exploited, ultimately entrapping other family members, sometimes for generations.
In some cases, when bonded labourers attempt to escape or seek legal redress, police return them to their traffickers, who hold labourers and their families in private jails.
Children are bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped and placed in organised begging rings, domestic servitude, small shops, brick kilns and prostitution dens. Begging ringmasters sometimes maim children to earn more money.
The report notes that the Pakistani government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.
The report urges the authorities to vigorously investigate and prosecute, respecting due process, suspected trafficking offenders and officials complicit in trafficking.
It also calls for an anti-trafficking law that prohibits and penalises all forms of human trafficking, including internal trafficking.
Pakistan Facing Major Human Trafficking Problem: Report