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US blacklists Vietnam, Cambodia and Macau for human trafficking

#blacklists #Vietnam #Cambodia #Macau #human #trafficking

The United States on Tuesday added Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei and Macau to a human trafficking blacklist that already includes Malaysia, blaming alleged weak efforts to end forced sex work or assist migrant workers.

In an annual report, the United States also blacklisted authoritarian Belarus and put Bulgaria on a watch list in a rare criticism of a Western ally over concerns it doesn’t take human trafficking seriously.

“If you look at the report, you will see a mixed picture of progress,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said when presenting it.

Blinken said corruption is a “top tool” used by traffickers who rely on governments to turn a blind eye.

“As we address issues like climate and corruption throughout our diplomacy, we also need to address how they intersect with human trafficking,” he said.

The State Department’s annual human trafficking report hasn’t spared close allies in the past, often causing friction, though US officials say the unflattering headlines have prompted governments to act.

Nations that are blacklisted – “Tier 3” – are subject to US sanctions, although the government routinely refrains from punishing friendly nations that promise improvements.

Vietnam, which has a warming relationship with Washington over shared concerns about a burgeoning China, was downgraded to Tier 3, with the State Department saying the Hanoi government had eased law enforcement in 2021.

In particular, the report complained that Hanoi failed to take action against a Vietnamese diplomat and embassy employee stationed in Saudi Arabia who was accused of complicity in trade with several of its citizens.

In Cambodia, the foreign ministry said “endemic corrupt people” have hampered efforts to help thousands, including children, trafficked in entertainment establishments, brick factories and online scam operations.

“Authorities often overlook, deny or downplay abuses of labor – including forced child labor – in factories and brick kilns, and have colluded with brick makers to arrest, detain and deport forced laborers who tried to escape,” the report said.

In the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Macau, a former Portuguese territory known for its bustling casinos and sex industry, the report said authorities have failed to provide services to a single human trafficking victim for the third straight year.

Regarding Bulgaria, which along with Serbia was at risk of being blacklisted without improvements, the foreign ministry said the authorities were investigating traffickers “significantly less” and were at times punishing victims for crimes committed against them.

Also newly added to the Tier 3 blacklist is the tiny Dutch Caribbean region of Sint Maarten.

In addition to Malaysia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Nicaragua, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Venezuela remained on last year’s list.

Algeria and the Indian Ocean archipelago, the Comoros, were both removed from the blacklist this year following improvements.

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