United States removes Saudi Arabia from the list of the worst human traffickers

The State Department’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report said the country had made “key achievements” in the past 12 months. It implemented its first national referral mechanism to provide care to victims of trafficking, and the government transparently reported data sets, including increased prosecutions and convictions under its anti-trafficking law, according to the report.

He also said that the Saudi authorities had “criminally convicted and sentenced two Saudi officials complicit in traffic crimes during the year to strict prison terms.”

As a result, the country has moved from Level 3 to Level 2, but the report says the Saudis still need to make additional reforms to combat trafficking.

Tier 2 countries are not subject to any potential consequences of the US, as the report says they are “making significant efforts” to meet US standards to combat trafficking. However, Tier 3 countries may face cuts to “non-humanitarian, non-trade foreign assistance” and “participation by government officials or employees in educational and cultural exchange programs,” the report said.

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Saudi Arabia is a close ally whose relationship with the United States was complicated by the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the Trump administration has maintained a close relationship with the country.

Saudi Arabia was one of the five countries removed from the list of the worst criminals. The others are Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and The Gambia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released the report in the State Department on Thursday along with senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump. He did not mention the progress made by Saudi Arabia, but noted that 22 countries had improved their status, with 13 of them coming from sub-Saharan Africa.

“We take government-sponsored traffic very seriously. It is a perversion of any government’s reason for existing: protecting rights, not crushing them,” Pompeo said. “The United States will not stand by as any government with a human trafficking policy or pattern subjects its own citizens to this type of oppression.”

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Although Pompeo highlighted the nearly half a trillion dollars that the Trump administration has provided to combat trafficking, the administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding for the office that monitors and combats human trafficking at the State Department.

Last year, the actual budget for the office was $ 61 million, and the Trump administration proposed a cut of more than 60% by 2021, to just $ 22 million.

In this year’s report, four countries were added to the list of the worst criminals: Afghanistan, Algeria, Lesotho and Nicaragua.

The report says Afghanistan “is not making significant efforts” to eliminate trafficking and that it has slowed law enforcement efforts against perpetrators. It also says that Afghan security forces “continued to recruit and use children in combat and non-combat roles with impunity.”

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Cuba remained on the list of the worst criminals, and Pompeo noted the country’s dependence on trafficking as a source of income.

“Up to 50,000 Cuban doctors have been forced by the Castro regime into human trafficking situations in more than 60 countries around the world. They are the main source of income for the regime,” he said.

Pompeo also highlighted China’s trafficking history, pointing to “horrendous conditions in the Belt and Road projects” in which the Chinese Communist Party forces its citizens to work.

The State Department provided a briefing on the report to some reporters; CNN was not invited.