In its annual human trafficking report, the State Department calls those 17 nations countries of origin, transit, or destinations for such crimes as sex slavery, forced labor, and recruiting child soldiers.
At a ceremony announcing the report, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she prefers to use the term “modern slavery” instead of trafficking.
“I think labeling this for what it is, slavery, has brought it to another dimension. Trafficking, when I first used to talk about it all those years ago, for a while people used to wonder if I was talking about road safety, what we needed to do to improve transportation systems. But slavery, there is no mistaking what it is, what it means, what it does.”
Clinton said 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery.
“Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life. And our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it's getting a good job, to send money home, to support a family, trying to get an education for one's self or one's children, or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life.”
Under U.S. law, countries that fail to effectively combat human trafficking face numerous sanctions, including a cut-off of all non-humanitarian aid. The United States would also oppose financial help from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The 17 countries the State Department calls the worst human trafficking offenders are Algeria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Syria, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
The report says a number of other countries do not fully comply with U.S. law, but are making significant efforts to comply.