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AIT Deputy Director David Keegan Delivers Speech at the Conference "Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking from Southeast Asia to Taiwan"

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.  It is a pleasure to be here to welcome you to this three-day conference on combating human trafficking.  I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the efforts of the organizers of this conference, The Garden of Hope Foundation and Vital Voices Global Partnership. Both organizations have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and assist victims of human trafficking, and we applaud your efforts. This is one of the most important human rights issues of the 21st century, and the United States is committed to working with our friends here in Taiwan and throughout the world in combating this global problem.

Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat:  it deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it is a global health risk, and it fuels the growth of organized crime.  When we talk about trafficking, we often focus on the recruitment, transportation, harboring, buying, and selling of a person for forced labor or sexual exploitation.  But there is also the personal, human element to the tragedy, for victims of trafficking often suffer years, even a lifetime, of psychological, physical, and emotional damage.  That is why protecting and counseling these victims is as important as preventing the tragedy from occurring in the first place.

Almost every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as country of origin, country of destination, or transit country.  The U.S. State Department estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders each year.  This is a conservative estimate, and the actual number of trafficking victims in the world, including those trafficked within a country's borders, may be far greater.  The U.S. alone sees about 14,500 to 17,500 people trafficked (a far larger number of people are smuggled) across its borders each year.  Recognizing the magnitude of this problem, the U.S. Congress passed the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, a comprehensive trafficking law that aims to combat trafficking through prevention, prosecution, and protection. 

Since then, President Bush and the U.S. Congress have continued to strengthen anti-trafficking activities and legislation.  For example, last year, Congress provided more than $80 million in funding worldwide for efforts to end this form of modern-day slavery. The funding is being used for rehabilitation and job training centers for victims, law enforcement training, information and awareness campaigns, voluntary repatriation for displaced victims, and other anti-trafficking activities. 

The U.S. also issues the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which assesses the efforts and measures progress made by governments in combating trafficking.  This report has helped us carry on useful dialogue with other countries and served as an impetus to them for serious action.  The U.S. is currently urging other governments to take significant steps in their anti-trafficking efforts, including increasing the rescue of victims and prosecution of traffickers, treating people freed from slavery as victims rather than criminals, and stemming the demand for exploited people through public awareness campaigns.    

Taiwan has made great strides in its efforts to combat human trafficking.  It has made progress in intercepting criminal syndicates responsible for trafficking of foreign victims from the P.R.C., Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  It has also stepped up its efforts to provide protection for trafficking victims, collaborating with non-government organizations to raise public awareness and improve the protection, shelter, and counseling provided to victims.  Although it has made significant progress in recent years, Taiwan can still do more by instituting a comprehensive trafficking law to ensure greater preventive measures and victim protection.

The United States has committed to work with Taiwan and countries around the world to combat this transnational issue.  This requires global collaboration between governments, inter-governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Governments can set policy, use diplomatic tools to encourage other governments to take action, and provide funding for activities.  But NGOs offer the invaluable resources of grassroots knowledge, extensive networks, and limitless passion.  Working together, we will do all we can to put an end to this tragic chapter in modern history.