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India among seven nations in US human trafficking watchlist
T V Parasuram WASHINGTON, June 15 (PTI) India is among the seven Asian nations put by US on its "watch list" of countries involved in human trafficking.

Besides India, other Asian countries in the 'Tier 2' of the Watch List for 2003 by the US State Department are Japan, Laos, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Nations deemed to be complying with the US and international efforts to fight human trafficking are placed under 'Tier 1' while those making "significant efforts" are placed under 'Tier 2'.

Bangladesh is the only South Asian country to be put in the 'Tier 3' in the Department's 'Trafficking in Persons' report released yeterday.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who delivered the report to President George W Bush and the US Congress and also released it to the media, warned that countries falling under 'Tier 3' face "significant sanctions."

He estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 cases each year of trafficking victims are taken across international frontiers.

That does not include those who are victimised within their own countries. The vast majority of victims, international and otherwise, are women and children.

Powell called on all nations to redouble their determination to prevent people from being lured into trafficking in the first place.

The underlying sources of trafficking run deep, Powell noted.

In many societies there is still a lack of basic respect and economic opportunity for women. Civil strife and corruption drive people to desperation, and into the clutches of traffickers.

Such evils, Powell said, cannot be eradicated in a single generation.

"Perhaps we cannot ever eradicate them entirely, but we can reduce and contain them," Powell said.

It is for the first time in its four-year history, that the report created a Tier 2 watch list for countries that are not yet in compliance with US legal standards and may be downgraded, but have promised to make or are in the process of making significant efforts to meet the requirements.

According to the report, human trafficking victims around the globe are women and girls, as young as six years old, forced into commercial sexual exploitation, men trafficked into forced labour and children forced to become child soldiers.

The report estimated up to 800,000 cases each year of people illegally transported across international frontiers.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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