WASHINGTON—U.S. efforts to end human trafficking should concentrate on Asia, according to experts at a The Heritage Foundation meeting Tuesday.
The experts noted that more than 35 million people are victims of human trafficking globally, and two-thirds of them are located in Asian countries.
According to Heritage, India has the largest population of human traffickers with about 14 million victims, Pakistan has two to four million bonded laborers in agriculture and brick making industries and China has about three million in forced labor camps.
America has an interest in the internal affairs of these countries because Asian banks are a major buyer of U.S. debt, Asian firms are major investors in the U.S. economy and Asia is America’s biggest trading partner, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Asia report.With these economic connections, American companies sometimes facilitate trafficking unknowingly by doing business with or in Asia, the report said.
Olivia Enos, the leading researcher for the Asian Studies Center at Heritage, stated that the leading issue driving human trafficking in Asian countries is the lack of access to legal help.
“[This] Slavery is highly responsive to law enforcement,” said Holly Burkhalter, vice president of government relations at the International Justice Mission. Burkhalter noted human trafficking is not a sophisticated crime, but law enforcement in countries where it takes place is often corrupt and untrained.
The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons 2014 report only identified over 44,000 victims of trafficking, with only 5,000 of 9,000 identified traffickers being convicted according to Enos.
“This means that less than one percent of victims are being rescued on an annual basis and even fewer traffickers are facing consequences,” said Enos
Trafficking is defined by the United Nations as the recruitment, transportation, holding and receiving people through force or other forms of coercion, fraud or kidnapping, or giving or receiving to achieve control over another person for the purpose of exploitation.
The experts urged the United States government to do more within the State Department by prioritizing countries with the greatest need in human trafficking and supplying training and programming for law enforcement
Legislation on human trafficking has been introduced in the Congress, although none specifically addresses Asia; the House has passed about 10 bills to try to reduce human trafficking.
Those bills included measures that would protect runaways from trafficking, increase law enforcement resources, criminalize advertising commercial exploitation of children, and develop an international law to notify countries when sex offenders cross borders, according to Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who spoke at the Heritage Foundation event.