The U.S. State Department's latest Trafficking in Persons Report reaffirms that promoting democracy and human rights is the most effective long-term strategy against modern-day slavery. The report says that the twelve countries with the poorest records in the 2006 assessment are Belize, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
The report points out that an estimated six-hundred-thousand to eight-hundred-thousand people are trafficked across borders every year into sexual exploitation, forced labor or debt bondage situations, among other forms of abuse. The exploiters prey on the most vulnerable and seek profit at the expense of innocent lives.
One section of the report is devoted to individuals who fight human trafficking. John Miller, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Slavery, calls these people heroes:
"We have nine or ten such heroes. People like Kyai Hussein in Indonesia, who has taken brochures and gone out into villages and, through the mosques, spread the word on how people can fight trafficking. People like Moussa Sow in Senegal, who has worked with the problem of child beggar trafficking in taking the lead in not only setting up shelters, but urging the government to take action."
Others include Kristina Misiniene, founder and coordinator of Lithuania's Aid to the Victims of Trafficking and Prostitution. Ms. Misiniene has coordinated assistance to over three-hundred victims and has urged the Lithuanian government to take more forceful actions to combat trafficking.
The State Department report cites Nodira Karimova of the International Office for Migration, an independent intergovernmental group, for her work in Uzbekistan. The report says, "Ms. Karimova and her associates returned victims into their own homes or even rented apartments for them as they began the process of readjustment. In addition, she has worked to expand the number of trafficking hotlines to ten, receiving over thirteen-thousand calls in the last year." She also developed "a strong working relationship with the Uzbek consul in the United Arab Emirates that has facilitated the repatriation of many Uzbek women."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "The harsh reality of human trafficking stuns even the hardest of hearts, stories of the sexual exploitation of young girls, stories of men and women toiling as slave labor in sweatshops, stories of children forced to kill as rebel soldiers." Ms. Rice says, "Protecting the non-negotiable demands of human dignity is the equal calling of every country and everyone must be held to the same high standards of moral conduct."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.