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Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Release of the 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Release of the 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report

AMBASSADOR DYER:  Good morning, everyone.  My name is Cindy Dyer, and I have the privilege of serving as the ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Thank you all for joining us today to mark the release of the 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report or TIP Report.  This is a particularly exciting year as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of our TIP Report Heroes program, as highlighted in the video we just watched.  We extend our deepest thanks to Mira Sorvino, UNODC goodwill ambassador in the global fight against human trafficking, for supporting this effort and lending her voice to the video.

Since 2004, the department has recognized more than 170 TIP Report Heroes from around the world.  These individuals have made significant contributions to the antitrafficking movement.  It is both an honor and a humbling experience to share this stage with the 2024 heroes we are recognizing here today.

During today’s program, Secretary Blinken will deliver remarks on the 2024 TIP Report.  Next we will honor the 10 TIP Report Heroes for their outstanding efforts in combating human trafficking in the face of hardships and challenging environments.  We will also hear from one of the heroes who will speak on behalf of this year’s honorees.  After the ceremony, we invite you to visit state.gov to read this year’s report and learn more about these extraordinary individuals.  To those gathered here, we invite you to join us for a reception in the Delegates’ Lounge.

The TIP Report stands as a key cornerstone of our collective global efforts to fight human trafficking.  This year’s – the report introduction focuses on the intersection of technology and human trafficking.  As traffickers exploit technological advancements to conduct their crimes and obscure their identities, we must also take advantage of new innovations while continuing to strengthen traditional methods and practices to identify victims, disrupt criminal networks, and hold traffickers accountable.

This year’s report also explores creative practices used in the field, developed in consultation with survivors that result in more victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches.  For instance, you will find information on innovative strategies in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions that can reduce reliance on victim testimony.  As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how employing these strategies provides greater protection and support for victims, strengthens the criminal case, and enhances accountability and justice.

Innovative partnerships can help us build prevention and protection efforts that are responsive to ever-evolving challenges.  Our office recently launched the first ever Partnership to Prevent Trafficking in Persons, or P2P – it’s D.C., it’s got to have an acronym – P2P with Zambia.  The P2P program is based on the successful Child Protection Compact program and utilizes a co-developed multi-year action plan to strengthen government efforts and civil society collaboration to combat trafficking.  We plan to launch future P2P agreements to draw on the best practices gleaned from the CPC program but which will benefit all human trafficking victims no matter their age.  Many adult human trafficking victims were first exploited as children but never identified and never assisted, and we shouldn’t stop caring about victims just because they turn 18.

I am also thrilled to announce that our office is planning to make an award in September to an organization that will provide technical assistance to support foreign governments and partners in their efforts to establish survivor partnership structures and engage survivor leadership.  It is essential that antitrafficking advocates continually and intentionally connect and partner with communities who are most impacted by trafficking, especially those from historically marginalized populations who are often excluded during the development of policies directly affecting them.

To this end, the United States continues to prioritize establishing a new and innovative ways to incorporate survivor input into federal antitrafficking policy and programs, primarily through the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and the department’s Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network.  Engaging with individuals who have lived experience of human trafficking and incorporating their knowledge and expertise ensures our antitrafficking initiatives benefit from diverse perspectives and insights and leads to survivor-informed policies that are more effective.  These innovative partnerships and methods are crucial in our fight against human trafficking, and fortunately we have a leader who shares that vision and commitment.  Thank you, Secretary Blinken, for hosting today’s events and for your continued leadership in advancing efforts to combat human trafficking both in the United States and globally.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Good morning, everyone.  Very good to have you here today at the State Department, in the Benjamin Franklin Room, especially with our very honored guests.  To Cindy, thank you.  To everyone involved, I’m so glad we’re coming together today.

The 2024 Trafficking in Human Persons Report is a comprehensive, objective assessment of the state of antitrafficking efforts across 188 countries and territories, including the United States.  For more than two decades, this report has documented emerging trends, highlighted areas of progress and setback, identified effective initiatives combatting human trafficking.  Let me start by saying how grateful I am to Ambassador Dyer and the entire team.  I’d also like to thank our colleagues at posts across the world for your work in gathering the information, meeting with host governments, engaging survivors to enrich the report and further our missions.

As always, our diplomacy – American diplomacy – is at its best when it reflects strong, bipartisan support.  That’s why we’re also grateful for the partnership from both sides of the aisle in Congress on this crucial and, alas, enduring issue.  And thank you to the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network and the U.S. Advisory Council, who ensure that our policies are centered where they belong: on the experiences and on the perspectives of the survivors.

We’re honored to be joined today by these 10 TIP Report Heroes, remarkably courageous individuals who are driving change, driving change in the face of daunting obstacles – often at great personal risk.

Each hero bring a unique approach to tackling this challenge, but their efforts, like those of our government, are rooted in a shared belief – a shared belief in the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people.  Trafficking violates that shared belief.  It also undermines the rule of law.  It weakens border security.  It limits people’s economic opportunity.  And while trafficking is as old as humanity itself, perpetrators continue to evolve their methods.

The 2024 report examines in depth one of those emerging practices, the growing role of digital technology in trafficking, and I commend it to you for that reason among many others.  Around the world, trafficking networks target and recruit victims online – through social media, through dating apps, through gaming platforms.  Perpetrators conduct financial transactions in opaque cryptocurrencies.  They use encryption to make it harder to detect their activities or ascertain the countries where they’re operating.  And increasingly, traffickers coerce their victims into participating in online scams.

Let me give you just one example of this.  Traffickers used fake job listings to lure individuals away from their homes with the promise of well-paying jobs.  Instead, they were taken to an isolated, guarded compound in Burma, where their phones were confiscated.  There, captives were forced to swindle people online, including American citizens – swindling them into investing in fake cryptocurrencies, typically through romance scams.

One trafficking survivor, a chemical engineer from India, told a reporter that he was locked in a cell and starved until he agreed to take part in the scams.  This practice of combining human trafficking with cyber scamming is becoming more and more common.

Now, social media can reinforce stereotypes about who can be a victim of trafficking – including along lines of gender, race, ethnicity, and class – like the false but widely held notion that trafficking only affects women and girls.  These misconceptions limit the ability of communities, of authorities, and even victims themselves to recognize abuse as it’s happening.

At the same time, this year’s report shows how some of these same technologies can be deployed to uncover and disrupt trafficking – and can help us better hold perpetrators accountable.  Civil society and the private sector are collaborating to create and apply AI-enabled tools that detect trafficking operations.  Here again, an example.  Tech Against Trafficking, a coalition of leading tech companies and antitrafficking NGOs, is developing machine learning initiatives that address emerging trafficking trends and tactics.  This allows advocates and governments to identify and share new vulnerabilities, as well as to more effectively track down and prosecute trafficking schemes, all the while preserving the anonymity of the victims.

Civil society groups are rolling out mobile apps to provide vulnerable individuals and groups with information about their rights, as well as about the wages, the labor conditions offered by potential employers.  Other digital tools empower workers to document and report trafficking.  In Brazil, the State Department assisted a trade union that represents millions of rural coffee workers to set up a help line on WhatsApp where laborers can report abuses and get the support they need.

Governments are integrating digital technology into their antitrafficking efforts.  Canada, for example, worked with major financial institutions through Project PROTECT, a public-private partnership that reviews suspicious transactions to identify the potential laundering of money from trafficking.

Trafficking is the very definition of a problem that no one nation can solve alone.  More than ever, we have to work not only with governments but along with the private sector, civil society, multinational organizations, citizens, and survivors who understand the complex challenge and how we can confront it, and they know this better than anyone – survivors like Al-Amin Noyon.

After graduating from university, he was lured away from his village in Bangladesh by a man who promised a higher-paying job abroad.  Noyon’s parents sold much of their land to cover the cost of his passport and fees.  Instead, he was taken to a neighboring country, where he was forced to work alongside others who were clearing a dense jungle.  They were never paid.  No one was allowed to leave.  “If we were tired or refused to work, we would be beaten,” Noyon said.

For seven months, he worked in these brutal conditions – until he and others waged a dangerous escape.  Eventually, Noyon made his way to the Bangladeshi embassy – and finally, back home.

But that is not the end of his story.  Having escaped, Noyon decided to dedicate himself to helping those who found themselves victims of trafficking.  As he put it, “I turned my scars into my strength.”  Years later, thousands of people – thousands of people – owe their freedom to his efforts.

Today, we honor Noyon as one of our TIP Heroes.  His story is a testament to the extraordinary resilience of the survivors – and all that they contribute to this shared movement.

So I wanted to highlight the report to you, but I especially now want to get out of the way so that you can appreciate and applaud the extraordinary individuals who share this stage with us – our TIP Report Heroes.  To them, to all of you here who are working on this vital mission:  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Cindy, back to you.  (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR DYER:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  I am excited to indeed now turn our attention to the 2024 TIP Report Heroes.  Please join me as we recognize and honor this year’s 10 heroes.

First, Al-Amin Noyon, from Bangladesh, in – (applause) – in recognition of his exceptional efforts managing a migration information center, using his professional and personal experience to provide survivor-centered support to an estimated 35,000 trafficking victims and migrants returning to Bangladesh.  (Applause.)

Marcela Martinez from Bolivia, in recognition – (applause and cheers) – in recognition of her extraordinary leadership in the antitrafficking movement in Bolivia, spurring antitrafficking legal protections, increasing the visibility of searches for trafficking victims, and providing social and economic reintegration support to survivors.  (Applause.)

Maria Werlau from Cuba – (applause) – in recognition of her persistent and courageous efforts to amplify the voices and stories of survivors of forced labor and exploitation in Cuba’s labor export program, including its medical brigades.  (Applause.)

Mustafa Ridha Mustafa al-Yasiri, from Iraq – (applause) – in recognition of his many years of courageous antitrafficking work, increasing identification of trafficking victims, and continuously improving support and services provided to Iraqi and foreign trafficking victims.  (Applause.)

Edith Murogo, in recognition of her decades – (applause) – spent fighting against human trafficking and labor exploitation; in particular, her advocacy on behalf of domestic workers, pushing for coordination among service providers to improve shelter provision and lobbying government for strengthened protections.  (Applause.)

Oumou Elkhairou Niaré Samaké from Mali – (applause) – in recognition of her tireless efforts to reinvigorate Mali’s antitrafficking efforts, leading the development of a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons, and advocating for the passage of laws that have provisions for higher punishments for trafficking in persons and hereditary slavery offenses.  (Applause.)

Samson Inocencio from the Philippines – (applause) – in recognition of his courageous leadership and distinguished career in partnering with the Philippine Government to enhance the public justice system and civil society’s response to human trafficking, leading to the identification of and assistance to over a thousand survivors, the convictions of hundreds of traffickers, and the protection of many children from exploitation.  (Applause.)

Marijana Savic from Serbia – (applause) – in recognition of her acclaimed antitrafficking work in Serbia, relentless push for sustainable policy solutions, insistence on the provision of victim-centered approaches, prioritization of vulnerable survivors, and innovative work promoting long-term economic integration for survivors to prevent revictimization.  (Applause.)

Rosa Cendón from Spain – (applause) – in recognition of her influential role in antitrafficking advocacy in Catalonia, her pivotal role in the design of national victim protection policies, contributions to the development of detection and intervention tools, and advocacy for the establishment of an NGO network to support refugees and integrate antitrafficking measures into the asylum reception system.  (Applause.)

And Letitia Pinas – (applause) – in recognition of her dedicated efforts as head of the Suriname police force’s TIP unit in the absence of any antitrafficking NGOs in the country to improve the unit’s work investigating suspects, identify and serve victims, while strengthening community outreach and the public’s trust in the unit.  (Applause.)

Congratulations again to the 2024 TIP Report Heroes.  Now we have the honor to hear from one of our heroes this morning.  Please join me in welcoming Mrs. Edith Murogo.  (Applause.)

MS MUROGO:  Good morning, everyone, and jambo from Kenya.  I am Edith Murogo, working with the Center for Domestic Training and Development, and a member of a very robust CSO network in Nairobi that works on fighting trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and child labor.  I’m also very happy and excited to see someone I met almost 10 years ago, former ambassador Mr. C.deBaca.  Thank you so much.  We were very encouraged by your visit, and I’m very happy to see you here this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, fellow awardees, and distinguished members of the U.S. Government, it is a profound honor to represent my fellow Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes today.  We are humbled and grateful for this recognition of our efforts to eradicate human trafficking, a scourge that continues to plague our global community.  We have dedicated our lives to restoring the rights, dignity, and humanity of those affected.

Our heroes today exemplify the spirit of grassroots advocates who have dedicated their time and risked their lives to combat this heinous crime.  Our journey as heroes has been driven by the firm conviction that change is possible.  By coming together, we can dismantle the structures that enable trafficking and build systems that protect and empower the vulnerable.  This ceremony validates the efforts of our colleagues around the world who are courageously confronting human trafficking.  So it’s not just for us who are here.

This event reminds us of the challenges ahead.  Working alongside victims and survivors, I have witnessed how this abhorrent crime festers in the shadows.  As composer Du Yun observed, when we think of human trafficking, we always think that it’s far away from us, yet the reality is trafficking permeates our communities.  This begs the question:  Why does human trafficking continue to thrive?  A confluence of factors: poverty, political instability, systemic inequalities, and social injustices create fertile ground for this crime, which is fueled by ignorance, corruption, and greed.

What can the global community do?  As Condoleezza Rice said, defeating human trafficking is a great moral calling of our time.  I propose five actions.

The first one is to raise awareness.  Our first step is to educate the public on indicators of trafficking, and the grim realities victims face, so communities can take proactive measures.

Number two:  We need to support survivors.  We need robust support systems for survivors, including safe shelters, legal advocacy, medical care, and psychological support.  The NGOs leading this effort require sustained financial backing.

Strengthen legislation:  Our governments must adopt and enforce laws that ensure severe penalties for perpetrators.  Given the transnational nature of trafficking, international collaboration is critical.

Promote economic opportunities – and this is very important:  Tackling the root causes of human trafficking requires addressing the economic disenfranchisement and educational deficits that traffickers exploit.

Build partnerships:  We have an African proverb that says if you want to go far, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together – sorry.  If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.  We cannot win the fight against trafficking alone.  Let us partner in a global network of support.

For now, I leave you with an urgent call to uphold our core values: freedom, justice, and human dignity.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted, the time is always right to do what is right.  In conclusion, let us heed the words of former President Barack Obama:  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we have been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”  Together we can be the change that eradicates human trafficking.

Thank you so much to all of you.  (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR DYER:  Thank you so much, Mrs. Murogo, for your thoughtful remarks on behalf of all of the TIP Report Heroes this year.  And to you to all of our TIP Report Heroes for the amazing work that you all do.

Before we depart today, I would like to thank the staff of the Trafficking in Persons Office, and our colleagues across the State Department, for your commitment and dedication to producing the TIP Report.  I have often told my staff that when I took this job, I knew it was my dream job, but I didn’t know that the dream job came with the dream team.  (Laughter.)  It does.  They are the dream team.

Also, a special thanks to our counterparts in the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau who continue to serve as close partners for our office, including in production of the report and in the planning of the annual TIP Report Heroes IVLP program.

Lastly, I want to express our gratitude to our partners around the world in government, civil society, and those with lived experience for the strong collaboration in informing the TIP Report.  Your insights guide our understanding of human trafficking in all its forms and the promising practices being used to combat and prevent it.

Again, I invite you to visit our website, state.gov, to read this year’s TIP Report.  Thank you again for your commitment and partnership, and please join us for a reception in the Delegates’ Lounge.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-the-release-of-the-2024-trafficking-in-persons-report/

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