The US government's $375-million effort to fight international human trafficking has lacked coordination and been plagued by an inability to determine which actions are actually working, according to a government study released Monday. The report prepared by the Government Accountability Office also said the United States doesn't have an effective method of estimating the number of people taken illegally across international borders annually. The GAO said the U.S. estimate of the global trafficking flow -- currently pegged at 600,000 to 800,000 people yearly -- is of doubtful reliability because it was prepared by one federal employee who wasn't able to document his work.
Human trafficking -- the migration of people who are forced to work as prostitutes, factory workers or domestic servants -- has been a growing concern in law enforcement, particularly in New York City, with its large immigrant communities. The Police Department is close to announcing creation of a human trafficking unit to uncover cases and work with federal investigators. Over the years, estimates of global human trafficking victims have gone as high as 2 million persons.
In 2000, a Central Intelligence Agency-commissioned report said about 45,000 to 50,000 trafficking victims came to the U.S. yearly, and that number drove policy debate and law enforcement priorities for years. Recent estimates put the number at around 17,000 trafficked persons annually. The GAO report was requested by Reps. James Sensenbrenner Jr.(R-Wis.), chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the Committee on International Relations. In a statement, Sensenbrenner expressed concern and called for action by President George W. Bush.
"I am deeply concerned about the stark deficiencies highlighted by this report," Sensenbrenner said in the statement. He said preparation of the trafficking estimates should be taken from the intelligence community and given to a different agency. Special Ambassador John Miller, the State Department official in charge of anti-trafficking efforts, criticized the report. "I think this proves the office of Congress can come up with a bureaucratic report just as well as a bureaucracy," Miller said. He said the focus should be on helping trafficking victims and putting traffickers in jail.
Thomas Melito, director of the GAO unit that prepared the study, told Newsday the data collection process needs to be improved at the individual country level and subjected to some kind of academic peer review process. Melito said the GAO study lauded the U.S. government for the way it has taken the lead, through the Department of State, in putting trafficking on the international agenda and pushing other governments into action. The department is required by law to rank country efforts on trafficking. But Melito said the study found the annual report prepared by the department had no clear, consistent way of preparing the rankings.
Anthony M. Destefano. "U.S. Efforts Against Human Trafficking Criticized." NEWSDAY. 15 August 2006.
Search the entirety of the site for resources or updates.