U.S. lawmakers say Malaysia, India trafficking ratings may be too high

Source: Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a copy of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report during the TIP Heroes Ceremony at the State Department in Washington, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE/FILE PHOTO

U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday they were concerned that Malaysia and India were rated too favourably in this year’s State Department human trafficking report although the report seemed less influenced by politics than last year’s.

The U.S. Department of State’s closely watched annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report was released on June 30.

After last year’s report provoked a firestorm of controversy, the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees held hearings on Tuesday to review this year’s findings.

A low ranking is a black mark on a country’s reputation and can subject a government to sanctions limiting access to aid from the United States, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

Last year, members of Congress and human rights groups said some countries’ ratings were changed for political reasons.

For example, over the objections of State Department experts, Malaysia was upgraded in 2015, despite authorities’ discovering mass graves of trafficking victims and rights groups’ reporting continued forced labor in its palm oil, construction and electronics industries.

On Tuesday, lawmakers again questioned why Malaysia had not been downgraded. “It’s hard to understand that they’ve made progress in 2016,” Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. Read more