EJF profoundly concerned about US Department of State’s decision to upgrade Thailand to Tier 2 Watch List in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report
The US State Department has upgraded Thailand to Tier 2 Watch List of its annual human trafficking index after two years on Tier 3.
Earlier this year, EJF has made the case that Thailand needed to remain on Tier 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Report for making insufficient progress in eradicating human trafficking from its seafood industry.
EJF has acknowledged that the Royal Thai Government (RTG) introduced in 2015 important legislative frameworks to strengthen its fisheries management regime and has acted on intelligence provided by Civil Society Organisations to combat trafficking and identify victims of human trafficking. However, substantial shortcomings still exist and the RTG’s new legislation has not achieved substantial progress in eliminating severe forms of trafficking compared to the previous year.
The RTG has in particular failed to:
- Pro-actively implement forensic investigations and enforcement action to gather evidence over time with the specific aim of initiating prosecutions and convictions against those engaged in the use of trafficking, forced, bonded and slave labour;
- Successfully prosecute and convict Thai nationals involved in human trafficking on the scale and to the extent required to reflect the magnitude of the problem in Thailand;
- Develop and implement reforms of its labour regulations to improve the recruitment of migrant workers and enhance worker protection mechanisms;
- Establish effective working mechanisms to identify and screen victims of exploitation and abuse in ports or on board fishing vessels;
- Adopt a victim-centred approach towards those who have escaped or who have been rescued from trafficking, forced and bonded labour.
EJF now worries that Thailand’s higher ranking could inhibit and disincentivise further progress towards effectively addressing these abuses.
“The US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has played a vital leadership role in the global fight against human trafficking. By upgrading Thailand to Tier 2 Watch List in 2016 we are worried that a wrong signal has been sent to the RTG. The actions taken by the RTG must be sustainable and address the many structural problems within the Thai seafood sector, such as the powerful economic incentives to use trafficked, bonded, forced and slave labour. We are now looking to see what decision the European Union will make on Thailand’s yellow card later this year after reviewing the country’s progress on the improvement of its fisheries and labour practices”. EJF Executive Director, Steve Trent