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Political Balancing of Anti-Trafficking Initiatives: 2019 TIP Report

By Emma Parker, Research Project Assistant

The 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report was released in June by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). As mandated by the U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, the TIP Report is an annual publication by the DOS. The DOS prepares this annual report by using information from U.S. embassies, government officials, NGOs and international organizations, as well as numerous written reports of human trafficking globally. Each country is placed into one of four tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3.

Additionally, there are a few countries exempt from ranking and are instead in a category titled Special Cases. If a country is ranked in Tier 1, their government fully meets the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. If in Tier 2, a country’s government does not fully meet the standards, but are making efforts to follow those standards. If in Tier 2 Watch List, the governments do not fully meet the standards, yet they are trying to bring themselves into compliance. However, countries on the Watch List are marked by a lack of improvement in addressing their human trafficking situations. Countries that fall in the Tier 3 category do not fully meet the standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. The 2019 reporting period which covered April 2018 through March 2019 revealed that 22 countries improved their rankings while 26 countries worsened in their rankings.

The DOS stated the focus of this year’s report is Domestic Trafficking, which involves trafficking orchestrated under a government’s watch within their own borders. This highlight comes as response to a startling statistic from the International Labour Organization which states that 77% of victims were trafficked in their own country. This report calls on governments to implement and enforce their own domestic laws to hold violators accountable and support victims. The following examples are some notable changes in rankings from the 2019 TIP report.

Afghanistan: Downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List

Since 2018, Afghanistan was added to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) List which identifies governments that supported armed forces that participated in the use and recruitment of child soldiers. Largely for this reason, Afghanistan dropped from a Tier 2 ranking in 2018 to a Tier 2 Watch List ranking in 2019. Additionally, the Afghan government has not been able to properly identify the difference between trafficking and smuggling. This has created difficulty in identifying and providing adequate resources for trafficking victims. Therefore, the government has allocated these responsibilities to NGOs. For Afghanistan to improve their ranking in coming years, the government must cease the unlawful recruitment and use of children by Afghan security forces and demobilize all children currently involved in armed groups. Furthermore, the information gathered from Afghanistan for the 2019 report was contradictory and not comprehensive. To improve ranking, the data and statistics coming from Afghanistan must be cohesive, reliable, and consistent.

Germany: Downgraded to Tier 2

This year marks the first year since the TIP report began in 2012 that Germany has not held a Tier 1 ranking. This year, Germany dropped to Tier 2. Only 36% of convicted sex traffickers in 2017 were serving prison time, therefore Germany did not meet the TVPA’s minimum standard requiring incarceration for convicted traffickers. Additionally, Germany’s law enforcement data has shown a decline in convictions for trafficking since 2009. By neglecting to prosecute human traffickers within their borders, the focus for 2019’s TIP report, Germany has fallen from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and will remain there until they improve efforts to hold human traffickers accountable.

Haiti: Upgraded to Tier 2

This year, Haiti received the highest ranking it ever has by becoming a Tier 2 country. Prior to this year, Haiti had fallen on either the Tier 2 Watch List or Tier 3. Haiti’s improvement in ranking comes from the government’s increased efforts of investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers. Though there is still much to be improved upon, Haiti has enacted increasingly effective measures to decrease trafficking and hold traffickers responsible.

Saudi Arabia: Downgraded to Tier 3

After holding a Tier 2 Watch List status for the past 4 years, Saudi Arabia has reverted to its previous ranking as a Tier 3 country. Saudi Arabia has consistently failed to make efforts to effectively combat human trafficking and hold traffickers legally accountable. In fact, Saudi Arabia has continued to fine, jail, or deport migrant workers for prostitution or immigration violations, even if the migrants were identified trafficking victims. Though it is significant that the United States downgraded Saudi Arabia for failure to combat human trafficking, the report may have not gone far enough. The DOS failed to list Saudi Arabia on the CSPA, though the state is reported to be using child soldiers in their military. By evading the list, Saudi Arabia still qualifies to get military assistance from the United States. By overlooking countries’ human trafficking abuses in cases like this, the United States shows that the standards are not objective or ubiquitous.


Ultimately, the TIP report fails to properly combat human trafficking by contributing to the politicization of human rights abuses. Scrutinizing these violations through the lens of political alliances only perpetuates human trafficking and the systems that bolster it worldwide. In order to effectively rank, legislate, and enforce anti-trafficking measures, the standards by which nations and laws are judged must be universal and not subject to biased political maneuvers.

Edited by Haven Campbell, Director of Communications

Photo Credit: Department of State

About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.

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