17 June, 2009

Malaysia, six African states listed for human trafficking

The United States on Tuesday added six African countries to a blacklist of countries trafficking in people, and put US trading partner Malaysia back on the list.

Chad, Eritrea, Niger, Mauritania, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe were added to the list in the annual report, which analyzed efforts in 173 countries to fight trafficking in humans for forced labor, prostitution, military service and other reasons.

Staying on the blacklist list are US allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but also Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, and Syria, according to the State Department report for 2009.

Removed from the list were Qatar, Oman, Algeria, and Moldova.

All the countries on the list risk sanctions, including the suspension of US non-humanitarian aid.

The “Trafficking in Persons Report” said that Malaysia “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so”.

Last year, the report bumped Malaysia up to a “watch list” from the 2007 blacklist after finding that it was “making significant efforts” to comply with such standards.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has accused the United States of unfair treatment over its decision to re-list the country on a human trafficking blacklist.

Washington's annual "Trafficking in Persons Report", released yesterday, says Malaysia is failing to comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking and "is not making significant efforts to do so".

Last year the report elevated Malaysia to a "watch list" from the 2007 blacklist after finding that it was "making significant efforts" to comply with standards.

"It is unfair to put us back on the list as we are doing our best," Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop told reporters.

"We will have to consider our next action in opposing the re-listing of our country on the blacklist," he added.

Abu Seman said the Malaysian government did not condone human trafficking and had taken stern action to deal with the problem, including enacting an anti-human trafficking law in 2007 and setting up a special task force.

The report said that while the Malaysian government took early steps to fight sex trafficking, it has yet to fully tackle labour trafficking.

It said there were "credible allegations", including those in a US Senate report this year, that some immigration officials took part in trafficking and extorting refugees from Myanmar.

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