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#8 - JRL 7228
Moscow News
June 18-24, 2002
Russia Gets an Upgrade
In its annual human-trafficking report, the U.S. State Department moved Russia up from Category 3 to Category 2
By Ilya Baranikas

This year the U.S. State Department has for the third time published its annual report on international trafficking in persons, which, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell, "leaves no land untouched, including our own," although it is "incomprehensible" that this should be possible in the 21st century in the first place. The World's Worst Trade

The U.S. State Department first took up assessment of international slave trade after the U.S. Congress passed, in 2000, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. With pedanry typical of U.S. bureaucracy, the State Department classified all countries into three categories: Category 3 comprises states with the most appalling track record; Category 1 are those at the forefront of combating trafficking in persons while Category 2 are countries that are still bad but trying to mend their ways. There is a financial incentive to encourage the get-better aspiration: In the past two years the U.S. administration has provided 92 countries with a total of more than $100 million worth to help prevent and combat trafficking in persons.

Recently John Miller, senior advisor to the secretary of state and director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, gave a briefing for foreign news media. He cited some striking statistics: Every year, between 800,000 and 900,000 women, men, and children are transported across state borders to be sold into the sex industry or any other industries where they are doomed to slave status. These statistics do not include national, or domestic, slavery - that is to say, exploitation of slave labor within a particular country.

Slavery as a Health Department Problem

Does America itself serve as a model to others? It generally does. In 2001-02, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted 79 slave traders, opening 127 criminal cases. The Department of Health and Human Services distributes grants among trafficking victims to help destitute and traumatized people get temporary housing accommodation, psychiatric aid, legal advice, and so forth. The Department of Homeland Security's Bureau for Citizen and Immigration Services introduced special visas for trafficking victims: They are given an opportunity to live and work in the United States for three years until their cases have been investigated and examined in a court of law.

Nonetheless, America has yet to eradicate human trafficking in its own territory. Say, almost every Russian-speaking immigrant living here has at one time or another employed illegal baby-sitters from the former Soviet Union. These women are brought here on guest visas that do not allow them to work, have their passports taken away and placed with families, mainly "New Russian" families, because most baby sitters do not speak English. The lion's share of the money they earn they have to give to their "minders," and God forbid that they should start claiming their rights or try cheating. The same applies to girls from the CIS who have been brought here to work in "salons," illegal construction workers, etc.

Upgrades Questioned

According to John Miller, as of this year the United States has reviewed its rating of a number of countries. Whereas last year there were 19 countries in Category 3, this year there are 15. Not all changes in the Washington table of ranks get a sympathetic response from human rights organizations. Thus some rights movements consider the "upgrading" of such countries as Cambodia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Qatar, Belarus, and Russia to be unfair, saying that prostitution in these countries only keeps rising while all of them have been graduated from Category 3 - in effect a blacklist - to Category 2, which comprises the overwhelming majority of normal states. Category 3 is a blacklist category because these countries will have U.S. assistance cut back unless they clean up their act before October 1, 2003. This year's blacklist includes Turkey, Greece, Cuba, North Korea, Belize, Bosnia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Myanmar (Burma), Sudan, Liberia, Surinam, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia.

Lithuania is the only FSU country in Category 1. Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, together with Russia and Belarus, have graduated from Category 3 to Category 2.

Expediency Prize for Arabs

The annual report contains plenty of elements based on considerations of expediency. Take for instance the miraculous transformation of two Arab countries from backward to front-line: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have advanced from Category 3 to Category 1, and are now ranking on a par with such states as Great Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany. Obviously, Washington chose not to aggravate the anti-American sentiments in these states that are already running high in the wake of the war in Iraq.

As for such deadbeats as Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan, they don't give a damn about the U.S. classification one way or the other: They bear the "state sponsors of terrorism" stigma anyway, and are therefore under sanctions and not entitled to any aid.

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