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Corker: Continued Progress Needed to Strengthen Integrity of Human Trafficking Report

WASHINGTON – During a hearing today to examine the State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted improvements over last year’s report but argued for continued progress to strengthen the integrity of the Tier Rankings that will help support global efforts to fight human trafficking and end modern slavery. The annual report ranks countries based upon their commitment to enforcing laws against forced labor, sexual servitude and other forms of human trafficking while also supporting victims. The committee heard testimony today from Susan Coppedge, Ambassador–at–Large for the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, who is responsible for preparing the TIP report.

“The integrity of last year’s report was called into question because of controversy over how the Tier Rankings were made regarding certain countries,” said Corker. “This report and Tier Rankings are an improvement…The decisions behind certain upgrades, such as Cyprus and the Philippines, and downgrades, such as Uzbekistan, Burma, and Luxembourg, are more balanced and strategic. It would appear that the oversight and other actions by this committee last year and this year, including confirming Ambassador Coppedge, have had a positive effect.”

Corker noted that more should be done to ensure recommendations from the TIP office about a country’s progress in combating trafficking are not overruled by political appointees within the State Department based upon other diplomatic considerations.

“While less pronounced this year, that pattern still shows in how certain countries, such as India, Mexico and Malaysia, are ranked,” added Corker. “Each year, the TIP report makes recommendations for progress and turns these into tailored actions for our embassies. Rigorously applied TIP action plans should inform the tough calls on the Tier Rankings.”

Corker also expressed optimism about eventual congressional passage of his End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which was approved unanimously by the committee last year.

“This year’s report focuses especially on preventing modern slavery. This is important and needs to be part of substantially increasing international efforts to end modern slavery, which this committee unanimously supports and hopefully will come to fruition very quickly,” concluded Corker.

For archived footage and complete witness testimony, click here.