The United States has strongly condemned the persistent issue of human trafficking, drawing attention to the rise of forced labor and the often-overlooked problem of boys and young men falling victim to this trade. Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a report highlighting what he described as “disturbing trends” in human trafficking.
Blinken voiced concern over the surge in forced labor, which has been exacerbated by the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in global supply chains. He emphasized that exploitative employers are resorting to various tactics to take advantage of vulnerable workers who are often paid lower wages.
Cindy Dyer, an anti-trafficking official from the State Department, revealed that traffickers have capitalized on pandemic-induced economic hardships, increased global youth unemployment, and international travel restrictions to manipulate their victims. Dyer described these schemes as part of a lucrative multibillion-dollar industry that has flourished in recent years.
During his address, Blinken also highlighted the escalating use of online scams for labor trafficking. The annual report, covering 188 countries, detailed how traffickers in countries such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Ghana, and Turkey deceived individuals worldwide, including adults and children, through fraudulent job offers posted on the internet.
The report listed several nations, including Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Eritrea, North Korea, Iran, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan, which the US accuses of actively engaging in trafficking. Such countries may face repercussions such as US sanctions or the revocation of US aid.
Dyer specifically pointed out China’s involvement, stating that the country is “engaging in a policy or pattern of trafficking.” She further expressed concerns that China is making efforts to obscure the transparency of its supply chain, hindering the detection of forced labor. Dyer assured that the US is closely monitoring the situation, particularly as Secretary Blinken prepares to embark on a rescheduled visit to Beijing.
In addition to forced labor, Blinken emphasized the findings of the report regarding the trafficking of young boys, which has experienced a significant increase in recent years. He cited a UN report indicating that the percentage of identified male victims of human trafficking has risen fivefold between 2004 and 2020, surpassing the proportion of female victims. Blinken criticized the widely held but incorrect perception that trafficking predominantly affects females, leading to inadequate allocation of resources to support boys who fall victim to human trafficking. He described the consequences of this misperception as devastating and intangible.
Dyer further explained that many boys are less likely to seek assistance or identify themselves as victims, exacerbating the challenges in providing adequate support. Disturbingly, even when boys do seek help, suitable services are not always readily available to them.
Secretary Blinken commended anti-trafficking efforts in the Seychelles, Hong Kong, and Denmark, underscoring the importance of local initiatives in combatting this grave issue.