The US State Department has released its 2005 report on human trafficking, saying 14 countries could face sanctions for not making significant efforts to combat the practice.
As the report was issued on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the practice of trading in human beings a modern-day form of slavery. She estimated that up to 800-thousand people are trafficked across international borders every year, with many more trafficked internally. The report says victims are often forced or defrauded into sexual or physical labor. Fifty percent of them are children. Five of the 14 countries deemed worst offenders are in Latin America and the Caribbean (Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica and Venezuela), four are in the Middle East (Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) three are in East Asia (Burma, Cambodia and North Korea) and two are in Africa (Sudan and Togo).
Trafficking in persons often involves organized criminal groups that make huge sums of money at the expense of their victims. The State Department report uses "tiers" to rate compliance with US-mandated standards for fighting human trafficking. Assessment as a "Tier Three" or worst offender country could trigger the withholding of non-humanitarian assistance from the United States.