28 June 201013:57

Russian MFA Press and Information Department Comments on the Publication of the US State Department Report on Human Trafficking in the World in 2009


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The Russian Foreign Ministry has taken a close look at the 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report, released by the US State Department.

We had awaited with interest the publication of this document, given the promise of the US State Department for the first time to analyze in it the situation "at home." Unfortunately, instead of an in-depth and objective review of the causes of the rise in human trafficking in the US the authors of the report without false modesty at once placed themselves among the best performers, that is, in Tier 1 under the country ranking system of their own devising.

The statistics adduced in the chapter on the United States are intended to underline the episodic, not systemic nature of the human trafficking offenses. Meanwhile, it's not a secret to anyone that the United States has been and remains the world's biggest importer of "human commodities." The report's authors managed to overlook the numerous American press reports about the presence in the US of more than 11 million illegal migrants mercilessly exploited at construction sites, on the farm, in the services, etc. They also chose not to notice the facts cited by local human rights activists of the annual trafficking of over 50 thousand women and girls into the US sex industry. So the idea of the US State Department this time to position themselves in the report as "an honest arbitrator" has manifestly failed. Probably, to lecture others is much easier than straightening the actual state of things in their own country.

We have repeatedly talked about the unacceptability to us of the methodological approach that the US State Department uses in preparing the report. Countries are ranked in tiers based on their conformance to certain "minimum standards" in the fight against trafficking in persons, and, more simply, to the requirements of internal American law. Such an approach is rejected not only by us, but also by many other countries. Several years ago, for example, Switzerland, a country with a fairly good track record in this respect, sharply negatively reacted to the report, having been placed among those in breach of the standards for lack of a specific law to combat human trafficking, which is included in the "standard set" recommended by the Americans.

We are not surprised that the current report has again placed Russia among the problem states, on the so-called Tier 2 Watch List. To earn promotion in the rankings, we should have fulfilled the Action Plan for Russia, prepared by the US Justice Department and instructing us to change our legislation and law enforcement practices to combat human trafficking. It is obvious that from the outset, this requirement was unfulfillable – the Russian authorities in the struggle against organized crime, which includes a drive against trafficking in persons, will never be guided by the instructions developed in another country; still less will they fulfill the conditions set forth almost as an ultimatum. Among other things, it is simply advantageous for the American partners to keep us on the Tier 2 Watch List in order to have a hypothetical reason to use economic and trade restrictions against Russia – for example, they must have at least something to justify the retention of the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment.

As for the application in Russia of the American experience in combating human trafficking, we are certainly ready to take advantage of the ideas and suggestions that can be useful in the Russian context. Practice shows, however, that to fully copy someone else's schemes of work is unrealistic and hardly expedient, too. Each state is free to create the most optimal-for-itself national mechanism for combating trafficking in persons and to develop legislative and other instruments against the trafficking.

Russia is interested in intensifying multilateral and bilateral cooperation to prevent and combat trafficking in persons. In our view, it is time to move from a general debate on trafficking in persons to specific practical cooperation of law enforcement and other government agencies whose functions include the fight against human trafficking. Well-established direct contacts of relevant police units, migration services and border control bodies of countries of origin and destination of human commodities, along with exchange of know-how and meetings at expert level on the critical outstanding issues can bring much better results than preparing "global" Trafficking in Persons reports, which is practiced by the US State Department.

June 28, 2010

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