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By US Ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda, Linda Taglialatela

Today, on the occasion of the United States’ National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the US government recognises the work of foreign governments and non-governmental organisations to combat the evils of human trafficking – the scourge of modern day slavery. 

On this day, we call attention to the multi-faceted efforts that advance the global goal of ending human trafficking: disrupting traffickers, protecting victims, rigorous enforcement of criminal and labour laws, and vigorously prosecuting those who exploit the most vulnerable in our society. Together, we have much more work to do to prevent this horrific injustice.

Human trafficking can be found in many forms and in all countries around the world, including in the United States. It is broadly defined as a crime in which force, fraud, or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labour, services, or commercial sex. 

Human trafficking erodes personal dignity and destroys the moral fabric of society. Through force, fraud, coercion, and sexual exploitation of minors and adults alike, traffickers rob countless individuals of their dignity and freedom, splinter families, and threaten the safety of our communities.

At home, American prosecutors and investigators have been relentless in bringing perpetrators to justice, protecting survivors, and preventing further victimisation and destruction of innocent lives. 

The international community has been just as dedicated in freeing these 21st century slaves through legislation. 

In 2000, the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and in 2005, we ratified the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. 

Both the TVPA and the Palermo Protocol established a comprehensive framework for combating human trafficking by creating prevention programmes, enhancing protection for victims, and expanding criminal statutes to usher in the modern anti-trafficking movement domestically and globally. 

Combatting human trafficking requires a sustained commitment to investigating and prosecuting these crimes and to protecting the most vulnerable citizens and residents from human traffickers. 

In the Eastern Caribbean, our embassy actively engages with governments to combat human trafficking by building law-enforcement capacity, fighting transnational organised crime, and helping to align criminal and civil laws with the UN’s International Crime Classification System, which will standardise crime reporting. 

We encourage the governments of the Eastern Caribbean to enact national action plans to serve as a foundation for continued cooperation.

We realise that this year has been one of the most challenging in world history. The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted our economies and presented serious public health challenges.

Protecting public health, vaccinating citizens, and revitalising the economy are rightfully the top priorities. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put many people at risk through increased economic insecurity and in so doing, has made many more vulnerable to human trafficking. 

It is because of the pandemic’s devastating impact – not despite it – that we must deepen our partnership to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking. 

I look forward to working with Eastern Caribbean governments as well as civil society organisations to deepen efforts to combat human trafficking.

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