A Look Into the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report Part 1

by Steffanie Preston

Introduction to the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report

The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons releases an annual report known as the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). The purpose of this document is to address, educate, and potentially solve human trafficking issues. Each time the report is released, we at Just Ask take time to look over it to see the progress that has been made on this important issue, both domestically and internationally. We will break down the major takeaways of this year’s report in a series of three blog posts. This entry takes a look at the purpose of the Trafficking in Persons Report and its specific focus this year.

What is in the report?

The 2020 TIP report contains the following major sections: an introduction looking at the past 20 years and the report’s evolution; an impact section examining various global successes and areas that still need improvements; specific issues within the human trafficking world; and country rankings.

Countries are ranked on a tiered basis that evaluates their government’s efforts to fight human trafficking based on the standards that were set in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). To determine the 2020 ranking, the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons analyzed how a country’s laws and punishments adhered to the standard set in the TVPA, steps taken to implement proactive victim identification methods, a country’s cooperation, and funding of NGOs that provide essential services to victims, the extent to which legal resources are provided to victims, prevention methods, and more. The standards for each tier are as follows:

Tier 1 countries have governments that have fully met TVPA standards.

Tier 2 countries have governments that have made significant efforts to comply with the TVPA; however, these governments still lack some aspects. A subset of Tier 2 is the Tier 2 Watch List, which includes governments that cannot provide proper evidence or are not taking actions proportional to the number of victims they are observing.

Tier 3 countries have governments that have neither met TVPA standards nor made significant advancements toward meeting them. T-3 countries are also subject to funding restrictions since the TVPA limits the foreign assistance that the United States can provide them.

These rankings are observed and can change annually. Each report releases new rankings.

Twenty Years of Anti-Trafficking Work

A major focus of this year’s report is the 20th anniversary of the TIP Report. It was originally mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was passed by Congress in 2000 and re-released annually. Over the last 20 years, anti-trafficking work has changed dramatically, and human trafficking is more at the forefront of our national and global conversations. When the report was launched in 2000, many governments denied the existence of human trafficking. But thanks to tireless efforts of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, nonprofit organizations, advocates, and passionate citizens, that is no longer the case.

One function of the TIP report is to pressure governments into addressing human trafficking within their borders. As mentioned earlier, the TVPA limits the amount of foreign assistance that can be given to Tier 3 countries. Because of this, the TIP is a powerful tool to bring governments to the table, resulting in great strides made globally in the fight against trafficking.

Trafficking During COVID-19

In addition to the 20th anniversary, the global COVID-19 pandemic has given this year’s report an especially unique perspective.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo addresses how trafficking is affected by this unprecedented time in his introduction to the report: “Instability and lack of access to critical services caused by the pandemic mean that the number of people vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers is rapidly growing.” Ambassador at Large John Cotton Richmond added, “As we have continued our work during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffickers have continued as well. Traffickers did not shut down. They continue to harm people, finding ways to innovate, and even capitalize on the chaos. The ratio between risk and reward is expanding in their favor.”

Just Ask is working hard to provide parents, guardians, teachers, and community members with the tools that they need to teach the young people in their life about trafficking. The disruption in many people’s routines and loss of financial stability has made them nervous. We hear from many parents who are apprehensive about the upcoming school year and hope that our resources can help.

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