US hits Brunei on human trafficking

AFP , Monday 24 Jun 2024

The United States on Monday put Brunei on a human trafficking blacklist while warning technology was aggravating the global scourge.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at an event to release the State Department s Trafficking in Persons Report in Washington, DC. AFP


In an annual report, the State Department added Brunei 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.

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

South Africa was taken off a watchlist, which carries a threat to downgrade to Tier 3 without improvements.

South Africa was 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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