By Lachlan Carmichael
WASHINGTON (AFP) â€” The United States on Tuesday added six African countries to a blacklist of countries trafficking in people, and put US trading partner Malaysia back on the list.
Chad, Eritrea, Niger, Mauritania, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe were added to the list in the annual report, which analyzed efforts in 173 countries to fight trafficking in humans for forced labor, prostitution, military service and other reasons.
Staying on the blacklist list are US allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but also Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, and Syria, according to the State Department report for 2009.
Removed from the list were Qatar, Oman, Algeria, and Moldova.
â€œThis is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain,â€ US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in introducing the report.
The â€œTrafficking in Persons Reportâ€ said â€œthe global economic crisis is also boosting the demand side of human trafficking.â€
The 17 countries on the blacklist could face sanctions, including the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade related US aid.
The report said Malaysia fails not only to â€œfully complyâ€ with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking but â€œis not making significant efforts to do so.â€
Last year the report elevated Malaysia to a â€œwatch listâ€ from the 2007 blacklist after finding that it was â€œmaking significant effortsâ€ to comply with such standards.
The new report said that while the government took early steps to fight sex trafficking, it has yet to fully tackle labor trafficking in Malaysia.
It also said there were â€œcredible allegations,â€ including those in a Senate report this year, that some immigration officials took part in trafficking and extorting refugees from Myanmar.
Like many African and other poor countries, the report said, Zimbabwe â€œis a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation.â€
Some of the many Zimbabweans who fled to neighboring countries amid Zimbabweâ€™s severe economic and political crisis faced â€œhuman trafficking,â€ it said.
It charged that members of Zimbabweâ€™s military were involved in trafficking.
Chad â€œshowed no results in enforcing government policy prohibiting recruitment of child soldiers,â€ the 320-page report said.
The government of Niger â€œdemonstrated marginal efforts to combat human trafficking, including traditional slavery, during the last year,â€ it said.
â€œThe government of Mauritania made inadequate efforts to raise awareness of trafficking during the last year,â€ it added.
Eritrea showed no progress in prosecuting or punishing traffickers, while Swaziland showed no effort to do the same.
The report said Saudi Arabia and Kuwait admit men and women from Asian and African countries to work as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but then subject many to â€œinvoluntary servitude.â€
It added that Saudi Arabia made â€œno discernible effortsâ€ to punish or prosecute traffickers, although Kuwait â€œdemonstrated some progressâ€ in punishing them.
North Korea does not recognize or make any attempt to identify trafficking victims, it said. Nor does it make any effort to prosecute perpetrators.
But another longstanding blacklist member Myanmar showed some progress to fight cross-border trafficking as well as limited efforts to investigate and prosecute internal trafficking, it said.
Fiji, described as a source country for child laborers and prostitutes, showed no significant efforts to protect victims or prosecute perpetrators, it said.