In June, the 2020 US Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) was released. The TIP Report is the United States government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. Although other trafficking reports exist around the world, the TIP Report is considered the most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-trafficking efforts. The U.S. Government uses the TIP Report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution.

Annually, the TIP Report “ranks” each country’s efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking found in Section 108 of the TVPA. The Tier system is defined by three rankings, or “tiers,” with the first being the highest. Tier 1 indicates that a government fully meets the TVPA’s minimum standards.  Tier 2 ranking reflects countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.  The Tier 2 Watch List, a provisionary ranking given to countries between the Tier 2 and 3 rankings, gives governments a two-year period to make efforts to address the problem and meet minimum standards. Tier 3 is given to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.  Restrictions on foreign assistance can be imposed on governments with a Tier 3 ranking.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the report, and the tenth year in which the United States was included.  Several civil society organizations expressed concern that the United States ranked itself Tier 1 again, even while acknowledging in the report that protection efforts decreased and there was “a continued lack of sustained effort to address labor trafficking, increased obstacles for foreign nationals to secure victim protections, and a systemic inability to prevent traffickers from using employment-based and other nonimmigrant visa programs.”

Human Trafficking Search has conducted research on the intersection of foster care and human trafficking and prison labor.  We were pleased that the U.S. narrative acknowledged that children in foster care are vulnerable to trafficking and that the Department of Health and Human Services has dedicated resources to finding children missing from foster care, and providing services to children in foster care who are survivors or at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims. But, we are disappointed that the U.S. narrative did not acknowledge forced labor in the U.S. prison system even though ATEST and others included the issue in detailed comments to the State Department earlier this year.

Other rankings that have garnered attention are the upgrade of Saudi Arabia to Tier 2 Watch List and Taiwan’s continued Tier 1 ranking.

The report notes that Saudi Arabia made key achievements including increased law enforcement and the enactment of the country’s first-ever national referral mechanism, but lists numerous areas for improvement.  The report also highlights that initial reforms to the sponsorship-based employment system were modest and that their system continues to exacerbate trafficking vulnerabilities among migrant workers.  The upgrade has some worried that the upgrade could take pressure off of Saudi Arabia and result in the country doing less to combat trafficking.

Taiwan remained on Tier 1, even though the report acknowledged that “significant challenges remained unaddressed.”  Greenpeace felt the ranking disregarded the numerous reports that detailed the government’s failure to adequately address the rampant forced labor in Taiwan’s fishing industry.

Whether you agree or disagree with a particular ranking, the report continues to provide important information on what governments around the world do to combat human trafficking.