The annual human trafficking report has just been published by the US State Department in the Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report.
Thailand is now in the lowest echelons of the ranking that has been set out by the US State Department and that comes down to saying that it’s on a par with North Korea and Iran or Saudi Arabia. Qatar is hardly any better and is just on a rung above those countries meaning that it enters into a watchlist of countries that need to be monitored in the future.
Although, honestly, why these reports gets published is one thing. Yes, we need to know which countries treat their people the best and the worst and why. But, that’s hardly sufficient to just draw up a list of those countries that are failing to combat human slavery taking place within their borders. Drawing up a list is just nice to look at. Doing nothing is worthless.
Both Thailand and Qatar have been downgraded in the rankings.
Recently a Guardian newspaper enquiry into the shrimp industry in Thailand showed the failings of a system that only perpetuated the slave labor of people, especially immigrant workers. All of that to fill our plates with low-cost shrimp so that we can eat whatever we want for next-to-nothing in the West.
A State Department official, Luis CdeBaca stated “I think the recent investigations [focusing on slavery and trafficking issues] in Thailand were fortuitous in their timing because, as we were doing our diplomatic job, these pieces of work have created a conversation around serious issues of trafficking in global fisheries”. But, dialogue isn’t enough. We spend far too much time just talking and not doing, these days for fear of losing out on what we can get from these countries.
In Qatar, the spotlight was thrown on the tenured positions of foreign workers that were forced to surrender their passports and unable to live the country, bound into contracts for life by their sponsors. The State Department said: “in Qatar we see a dramatic reliance on foreign labor – yet, even though there are legal structures in place to protect [migrant workers], these seem to exist largely on paper”. So, laws and structural changes to the way people are employed have little effect when a government is dead set on doing exactly what it wants to exploit people. Laws are there to be broken, anyhow.
Thailand was on the watchlist (tier 2) for four years and now has fallen into tier 3. So, will the same just end up happening to Qatar? The state department says that it may cause diplomatic tensions between the US and the two countries in a bid to make them change. So the US will have diplomatic tensions with Qatar? Or the US has had for the past four years diplomatic tensions with Thailand? Have they been putting the pressure on in Thailand? Obviously not, otherwise they wouldn’t have dropped to tier 3, would they?
But, has that changed the plight of the people working in those countries? Have we stopped buying the shrimp? Have the supermarkets stopped stocking the slave-produced stuff? Did the World Cup 2022 get questioned over the slavery their? No, as we all know already, is the only answer to all of those questions. So, why waste money from the State Department if we are going to do nothing about the slave trade? Modern-day slavery is there and is there to stay. Nobody’s going to stand up and fight for any of it to change, are they really?
The report ranks 188 countries according to their willingness to combat trafficking and human slavery. But, is it just another report that ends up getting thrown into a drawer, especially since it is largely colored by the US’s political, economic and diplomatic interests around the world? In the bad books of the US, you’ll never go up in the rankings, whatever you do. Friends and economic allies, you can be sure to stay where you are.
Originally posted: Thailand and Qatar: Human Trafficking