Guide to Tier Rankings from the Trafficking in Persons Report
The Department places each country in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report onto one of three tiers, as mandated by the TVPA. This placement is based more on the extent of government action to combat trafficking than on the size of the problem, although the latter is also an important factor. The analyses are based on the extent of governments’ efforts to reach compliance with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem. Rather, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem, and meets the TVPA’s minimum standards. Each year, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking to maintain a Tier 1 ranking. Indeed, Tier 1 represents a responsibility rather than a reprieve.
Tier rankings and narratives in the TIP Report reflect the following:
- enactment of laws prohibiting severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by the TVPA, and provision of criminal punishments for trafficking offenses;
- criminal penalties prescribed for human trafficking offenses with a maximum of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty, or a more severe penalty;
- implementation of human trafficking laws through vigorous prosecution of the prevalent forms of trafficking in the country;
- proactive victim identification measures with systematic procedures to guide law enforcement and other government-supported front-line responders in the process of victim identification;
- government funding and partnerships with NGOs to provide victims with access to primary health care, counseling, and shelter, allowing them to recount their trafficking experiences to trained social counselors and law enforcement in an environment of minimal pressure;
- victim protection efforts that include access to services and shelter without detention and with legal alternatives to removal to countries in which the victim would face retribution or hardship;
- the extent to which a government ensures victims are provided with legal and other assistance and that, consistent with domestic law, proceedings are not prejudicial against victims’ rights, dignity, or psychological well being;
- the extent to which a government ensures the safe, humane, and to the extent possible, voluntary repatriation and reintegration of victims; and
- governmental measures to prevent human trafficking, including efforts to curb practices identified as contributing factors to human trafficking including forced labor, such as employers’ confiscation of foreign workers’ passports and allowing labor recruiters to charge prospective migrants excessive fees.
Tier rankings and narratives are NOT affected by the following:
- efforts, however laudable, undertaken exclusively by nongovernmental actors in the country;
- general public awareness events – government-sponsored or otherwise – lacking concrete ties to the prosecution of traffickers, protection of victims, or prevention of trafficking; and
- broad-based development or law enforcement initiatives without a specific human trafficking focus.
A Guide To The Tiers
Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Tier 2 Watch List
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND:
a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution, and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims, and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials; or
c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The TVPA lists additional factors through which to determine whether a country should be on Tier 2 (or Tier 2 Watch List) versus Tier 3. First, the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking. Second, the extent to which the country’s government does not comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking. And third, reasonable measures required to bring the government into compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.
In 2008, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act included a provision that any country that has been ranked Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years and that would otherwise be ranked Tier 2 Watch List for the next year will instead be ranked Tier 3 for the next year. This provision comes into effect for the first time in this year’s report. The Secretary of State, through delegation, can waive the automatic downgrade based on credible evidence that a waiver is justified because the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan. Governments subject to the automatic downgrade provision are noted as such within the country narratives.
Penalties for Tier 3 Countries
Pursuant to the TVPA, governments of countries on Tier 3 may be subject to certain sanctions, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw nonhumanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance. In addition, countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs. Consistent with the TVPA, governments subject to sanctions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance) from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Imposed sanctions will take effect on October 1; however, all or part of the TVPA’s sanctions can be waived if the President determines that the provision of such assistance to the government would promote the purposes of the statute or is otherwise in the United States’ national interest. The TVPA also provides for a waiver of sanctions if necessary to avoid significant adverse effects on vulnerable populations, including women and children.
No tier ranking is permanent. Each and every country can do more, including the United States. All countries must maintain and increase efforts to combat trafficking.