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Japan put on sex-trade watch list


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Japan's "hostess bars" have been linked to human trafficking and organized crime.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Japan has thousands of victims of sexual slavery and is on a new U.S. "watch list" for failing to do more against the trafficking of humans by the underworld, a report released by the U.S. State Department says.

Japan "has a huge problem with slavery, particularly sex slavery, a tremendous gap between the size of the problem and the resources and efforts devoted to addressing the problem," senior State Department adviser John Miller said Monday.

Miller told reporters that he visited Japan, and "I found only two small shelters, each with eight to 10 beds."

He also criticized Japan for prosecutions that "did not appear to be a great effort" and said sentences were "relatively light" for people convicted of "sex tourism" there.

But Miller said Japan appears to be gearing up to make inroads against the problem.

Mexico, too, is among prominent U.S. allies cited in the 2004 "Trafficking in Persons Report."

"Reliable estimates point to 16,000-20,000" child sex victims in Mexico, "largely in border, urban, and tourist areas," the report finds.

Miller blamed "uneven law enforcement," but said top Mexican officials have recently made promises to fight such trafficking.

Japan and Mexico are among 140 countries that the 274-page report divided into four levels of compliance with the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2003:

Tier 1: "Countries whose governments fully comply with the act's minimum standards."

Tier 2: "Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the act's minimum standards but are making significant progress to bring themselves into compliance with those standards."

Tier 3: "Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so."

This year's list includes 42 countries classified under a new category, called a "Tier 2 Watch List." Its definition is the same as Tier 2's, with these additions:

  • "The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; or
  • "There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or
  • "The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year."
  • Secretary of State Powell said trafficking could be helping finance terrorism.

    Japan and Mexico fall under the new category, created to warn countries that are falling short in their efforts to fight criminal activity that can include forced prostitution, labor camps, and child soldiers.

    Each year, 600,000 to 800,000 people -- most of them women and children -- are transported illegally across international boundaries, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

    Human trafficking may "very well" help finance terrorist activity, he told reporters when presenting the report. He left without taking questions.

    Asked for evidence to support Powell's comment on a possible link to terrorism, Miller said, "I have no specific documentation that I can give you. This is largely organized crime activity, and it would not surprise me to find links to terrorism."

    This is the fourth annual report prepared in response to a congressional mandate through the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

    It surveys countries where human trafficking has been documented as a significant problem -- meaning at least 100 victims have been reported.

    'Progress, not sanctions'

    "This does not mean that countries that are not mentioned do not have a slavery problem," Miller said. "It just means we do not have the information on such countries to establish 100 victims."

    The 10 countries in Tier 3 are: Bangladesh, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cuba, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, North Korea, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Venezuela.

    Moving out of Tier 3 status were Belize, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Surinam, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

    Though inclusion in Tier 3 brings the possibility of losses of certain kinds of U.S. aid, "the purpose of this report is not sanctions, it is to get progress," Miller said.

    "Twenty-first century slavery is a story of evil, but it's also a story of hope, hope for all who seek to abolish slavery," he said.

    "While there is so much more to do, governments are increasingly taking steps to help victims and jail the traffickers."

    Some 16,000 people are trafficked into the United States, according to figures kept separately by the Justice Department.

    -- CNN Producer Paul Courson contributed to this story.


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