There has been virtually no increase in verified incidents of human trafficking in countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, says John Miller, director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
"The number of actual reported cases attributed to the tsunami is, thankfully, very small at this point," Miller said in a January 12 interview with the Washington File, but he cautioned that this might change.
In the days following the disaster, a number of widely circulated media reports said predators were taking advantage of the chaos to snap up orphaned children for the lucrative human slave trade. But Miller said authorities from the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) have been able to confirm only one or two cases so far.
U.S. efforts regarding human trafficking in the tsunami aftermath have been focused on encouraging governments and charitable organizations "to take the common-sense education and prevention and warning measures that will be helpful in avoiding the worsening of this problem in the coming months," he said.
Immediately after the tsunami struck, Miller said, his office was in communication with nongovernmental organizations on the ground in the affected areas suggesting steps to reduce the opportunities for exploitation, such as the identification and registration of children in camps and the education of camp workers on the increased dangers of trafficking.
Of the countries worst hit by the tsunami, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand and India have been noted in the U.S. Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report for 2004 as having governments that do not comply with the minimum standards set by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) enacted in 2002. The TVPA, intended to raise global awareness and spur governments to fight human trafficking, calls for the U.S. government to withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance to countries that fail to take significant actions to eliminate this global scourge.
Miller said that even though some of the tsunami-hit countries get poor ratings in the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report, the United States is pleased with those governments' attention to the trafficking issue as it relates to the tsunami.
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