Mercy Global Concern

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report – A Critique

Special Reports: July 19, 2018

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is produced annually by the US government to provide an up to date account of human trafficking or modern slavery in every country.

The 2018 report was published on Thursday June 28th. This year’s report focuses on effective ways local communities can address human trafficking proactively and on how national governments can support and empower them. Launching this year’s report, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said that “local communities are the most affected by this abhorrent crime and are also the first line of defence against human trafficking”. He said that proactive community-driven measures strengthen a government’s ability to protect the most vulnerable and to weaken a criminal’s ability to infiltrate, recruit and exploit.

The TIP Report comprises four tiers, ranging from Tier 1 for governments who are fully compliant with minimum standards, to Tier 3 for non – compliant countries. TIER 1 represents countries whose governments fully meet the Trafficking Victim Protection Acts (TVPA) minimum while TIER 2 represents those whose governments have not. TIER 2 WATCH LIST covers countries who do not fully meet the TVPA minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance and TIER 3 covers whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant to do so. This year’s report has a new and interesting layout including several case studies with victim stories from countries across the globe, plus very useful charts and graphics. The 2018 TIP report sees 29 countries upgraded and 20 countries downgraded. The chart at the end of this text reveals the winners and losers!


In the 2018 Report Thailand is upgraded to Tier 2 from Tier 2 WATCH LIST which is a serious concern for Melysa Sperber of Humanity United. Melysa has “serious concerns about the unjustified upgrade to Thailand’s ranking in this year’s TIP report”. She also felt that this move is “out of step with other international leaders and does not reflect the country’s repeated failure to adequately protect vulnerable individuals (including those in the country’s seafood industry) from exploitation”.

ATEST (Action to end Slavery and Trafficking) is equally concerned about the Report and ponders on its credibility, given the deterioration of the United States’ standing on human rights. This questions the impact of the TIP Report. The credibility of the report’s analysis of governments’ commitments to end human trafficking must be grounded in the reliability of the government issuing the report. Today, U.S. policies are deliberately disregarding the most vulnerable, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation and offering them no protections or paths to refuge as evidenced by recent events on the US Mexican border.

For the first time Ireland has been downgraded in the 2018 Report to a Tier 2 ranking. This is because of what is described as the government’s failure to adequately protect victims of trafficking from sexual exploitation and labour abuse, and failure to convict traffickers. The Report cites “chronic deficiencies in victim identification and referral” as one of the main factors in this downgrade. Criticism from the Irish high court and from the Council of Europe have already made clear that the Irish systems for supporting victims of trafficking are inadequate.

Additionally, the TIP report highlights forced labour in the Irish fishing industry, and the state’s prosecution of Vietnamese and Chinese men for cannabis cultivation despite indications that they were victims of modern slavery. The Immigrant Council of Ireland has repeated its call for urgent action from the Irish government to improve its record.


The annual TIP report is the principal diplomatic tool used by the US to press foreign governments to act against trafficking, and Ireland’s Tier 2 ranking is highly embarrassing for an advanced economy, according to Mark Lagon, former TIP ambassador at the State Department. Having said that, Lagon also believes that the downgrade of an advanced western economy, such as Ireland, gives credence to the TIP Report, as it shows the US in its reporting is willing to be honest about another western, advanced market democracy.

Now in its sixteenth year, the TIP report helps inform policymakers, law enforcement, and civil society on gaps and areas of concern in human trafficking. The Report is not without its critics and a Harvard review feels that the report lacks in-depth analysis of the root causes of slavery. The lack of research has been pointed out by experts who believe the report’s reach is not extensive enough to eliminate modern slavery.

  Messages to: Betty Lacey - MIA-MGA Researcher

Spread the word
About MGC RSS Feeds

Search Archives