A Jordanian police officer has been commended as a “hero” by the US State Department for his efforts to eliminate human trafficking.
The Trafficking in Persons report, issued annually by the US to monitor and combat trafficking, also gave Bahrain the highest rank in its three-tier system for fighting and preventing the practice.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award to Maj Mohammad Al Khlaifat in Washington on Tuesday.
“Maj Mohammad Al Khlaifat has striven to eliminate human trafficking in Jordan by leading the Public Security Directorate’s Counter Trafficking Unit, a police unit with embedded Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Health personnel, and also by proactively identifying and supporting trafficking victims,” the report said.
Since becoming acting head of the unit in 2020, Maj Al Khlaifat has led efforts to strengthen co-operation between Jordanian government agencies, civil society, and non-government organisations. These include the Jordanian Women’s Union, which helps provide shelter and services for abused women.
“He initiated new ways to collaborate with the Ministry of Social Development and the Jordanian Women’s Union to ensure trafficking victims received responsive and equitable protection and support services,” the report said.
The report is considered one of the most comprehensive of its kind, and a key reference for international human rights organisations.
It assesses how 188 countries and territories are performing in terms of preventing trafficking, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers.
The hero award was also given to officials from Ukraine, Bangladesh, Poland, Thailand and Liberia.
Launching the report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the scale of human trafficking today is terrifying.
“There are nearly 25 million people currently victims of trafficking,” he said.
“Trafficking in persons violates the rights of all people to be free: free to do what you want, be who you want, make the life that you wish."
Arab country in top tier for tackling trafficking
The report divides countries into three tiers based on their compliance with strict standards for combating human trafficking.
Tier one is dedicated to nations that fully comply with measures and are make significant efforts to eliminate it.
Bahrain is the only Arab country to receive a Tier 1 ranking this year, alongside countries and territories including the US, the UK, Sweden, Spain, France, Singapore and Taiwan.
It was praised for its efforts against forced labour.
“These efforts included convicting labour traffickers for the first time since 2018 and increasing forced labour investigations and prosecutions,” the report said.
The kingdom also has a police trafficking hotline that has helped expose cases.
“The government also identified and referred to care more victims overall and identified forced labour victims for the first time in two years,” the report said.
The UAE features in Tier 2 of the ranking. This is designated for countries whose governments and territories, the State Department says, do not fully comply with all standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.
Legislation to combat all forms of human trafficking, including sexual exploitation and forced labour, has been introduced in the UAE.
The country's National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking was established in 2007 to support these efforts.
Last year, the Emirates took part in a major Interpol operation to tackle human trafficking around the world — leading to hundreds of arrests.
Other Tier 2 Middle Eastern countries include Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Iraq.
Syria and Iran ranked in Tier 3, for countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
A highlight of this year's report is the attention given to trafficking victims
It identifies and lists recommendations for world governments to combat traffickers, obstacles that survivors face and the support that can help them rebuild their lives.
Last week, British Olympic star Sir Mo Farah has said he continues to live with the “sadness and trauma” of being trafficked to the UK as a child to work as a slave.
The four-time Olympic champion long-distance runner recalls being taken away from his family in Somalia by a woman he had never met and told he was to live with relatives in the UK.
Somalia, Libya and Yemen are the only three countries in the “special case” rank — where civil conflict and humanitarian crises make obtaining information difficult.