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U.S. Wants Global Trafficking Report To Hit Home

Prostitutes arrested in Guatemala City in 2012, as part of an operation against human trafficking.
Johan Ordonez
AFP/Getty Images
Prostitutes arrested in Guatemala City in 2012, as part of an operation against human trafficking.

The U.S. State Department releases its report on human trafficking every year, naming the countries it believes aren't doing enough to combat modern-day slavery.

The department released a new report Wednesday, and NPR's Michele Kelemen is reporting on the story for All Things Considered. One thing that jumped out at us is that the State Department wants the report to hit home this year.

Luis CdeBaca, the official in charge of the office that monitors and combats trafficking, put it this way:

"This year's report looks at things like the fishing industry — and actually raises a question that I think all of us should be asking: Which is how much of my life is impacting modern-day slavery? Do I know where the shrimp is being caught or processed that is on my plate? Do I know where the cotton is coming from that's on my clothes? ... And instead of it being somebody else's problem, how can I make it my problem? How can I actually do something about it?"

The State Department has worked with a nonprofit organization on a website, slaveryfootprint.org, where consumers can take a survey that answers the question: How many slaves work for me?

The idea is to alert consumers to who works to create the products they consume.

"As consumers start to make their voices heard, that'll be a real big driver out in the private sector," CdeBaca told Michele.

Consumer pressure has had an impact on industry standards: Last month, four major Western retailers announced they'll help finance safety upgrades at apparel factories in Bangladesh following the collapse of a garment complex in April that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people.

NPR's Talk of the Nation devoted a segment last year to modern-day slavery in the U.S. Some of those workers were brought from overseas.

"We need to keep our eyes open. We need to stay vigilant, and we need to realize that this can appear in almost any industry," Bradley Myles, executive director and CEO of the Polaris Project, said on that program. "There's been a case of elder-care workers in a nursing home. There's been a case of golf course groundskeepers in a fancy golf course. There have been cases in the fishing industry and nail salons and restaurants, all these different places where we need to stay vigilant."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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