For the fifth year, the State Department in Washington has released its Trafficking in Persons Report. The report rates the efforts of countries to fight modern-day slavery.
Fourteen countries get the lowest ratings this year. Among them are Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica and Kuwait. The others are North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Congress requires the yearly report under a law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of Two Thousand. The reports are based on information from American diplomats as well as non-governmental organizations and other groups. One hundred fifty nations are examined in the report this year.
Countries are divided into three groups, or tiers. Tier One means that a country fully meets the requirements of the law. Tier Two countries do not meet the standards fully, but are working to improve. Guyana and Bangladesh are two nations this year that moved up to Tier Two.
Tier Three countries face possible restrictions in American aid or other measures. That could happen to the fourteen countries if they do not make changes by the end of September.
John Miller heads the anti-trafficking office at the State Department. Ambassador Miller says only a small number of countries have faced action. He says the goal of the report is not to punish, but to get nations to improve. The report says the United States provided ninety-six million dollars in foreign aid last year to deal with the problem.
In fact, Mister Miller said one country, Ecuador, has already taken steps since the report was put together. Lawmakers approved changes in Ecuador's criminal laws.
The United States is not rated in the study. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States is dealing with its own trafficking problem. Mister Miller estimates that each year almost fifteen thousand people are brought to the United States.
The report estimates that as many as eight hundred thousand people are trafficked across international borders each year. Millions of others are moved within countries. Trafficking victims are often forced into labor or the sex trade. Experts say about half of all victims are children. Many are sold by their own families.
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Our reports are on the Web at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Gwen Outen.