US blacklists Brunei, Sudan on human trafficking

Sudan was added onto the State Department list in part due to the government’s use of child soldiers [Getty]

The United States on Monday added Brunei and violence-torn Sudan to a human trafficking blacklist while warning that technology was aggravating the scourge affecting millions around the world.

In an annual report, the State Department added Brunei and Sudan to a “Tier 3” blacklist of countries that are not doing enough against human trafficking and could be subject to US sanctions or reductions of assistance.

Brunei – a US partner as part of the ASEAN bloc – did not convict any traffickers for the seventh straight year and likely prosecuted or deported some victims in need of help, the State Department said.

The oil-rich monarchy also “publicized efforts to catch ‘runaway workers,’ caning some of those who were caught,” the report said.

Brunei has generally had friendly relations with the United States, although the Muslim-majority country has faced criticism for keeping capital punishment on the books, if not in practice, for homosexuality.

Sudan tumbled from the previous year in the rankings as the country has descended into a devastating war between rival generals.

“We assessed a policy or pattern of trafficking (by) the government of Sudan as it pertained to the recruitment of child soldiers,” Cindy Dyer, the US ambassador-at-large in charge of human trafficking, told reporters.

Most countries on the Tier 3 blacklist have poor relations with the United States, including China, Russia and Venezuela.

The United States removed Algeria from the blacklist, saying it was “making significant efforts,” pointing to a new anti-trafficking law and a tripling of prosecutions against alleged perpetrators.

Egypt, South Africa and Vietnam were both taken off a watch list, which carries a threat to downgrade to Tier 3 without improvements.

Vietnam – which just two years ago was at rock bottom at Tier 3 – was upgraded due to increasing investigations and prosecutions, as well as greater assistance to victims, Dyer said.

The report said Egypt more than doubled prosecutions of alleged traffickers and prosecuted officials accused of complicity.

South Africa was also credited with increasing prosecutions and with setting up more shelters for victims.

Despite some improvements, the report warned that human trafficking remained a major problem around the world, estimating that 27 million people around the world are exploited for labor, sex or services.

The report highlighted the role of technology, saying it was making it easier for traffickers to cross borders.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, presenting the report, pointed to a rise in cyber scams that lure people who are forced into labor.

But he pointed to work by non-governmental groups, including through artificial intelligence, to root out trafficking.

“Some of these same technologies can be deployed to uncover and disrupt trafficking and can help us better hold perpetrators accountable,” he said.

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