Deputy Chief of Mission Daniel Bischof Remarks at the Human Trafficking National Committee Forum

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My respects to the representatives from PNTL and F-FDTL. To our IOM hosts, colleagues from the Government of Timor-Leste, international organizations, and NGOs, it is an honor to welcome you to the National Community Forum on Human Trafficking.

I want to tell you a story. Elly Anita, a young woman from Indonesia signed up to be a secretary in Dubai, which sounded like a good job.

But she was never sent to Dubai. Instead, she was sent to Iraq, where she continually had trouble with her employment agency. She eventually refused to work, and they beat her, threatened her, and held a gun to her head.

She was only able to escape when the office was empty, despite having been beaten almost to death. Using the internet, she e-mailed a friend, who in turn directed her to embassy officials, and to people who worked for the Indonesian organization Migrant Care. They contacted the International Organization for Migration, who helped her escape, although just barely, with her life.

She returned to Indonesia and became an advocate against the trafficking of laborers through her work with Migrant Care, the organization that helped save her. She was able to save a number of other people from the same agency in Iraq, and continues to fight for the rights of migrant workers.

Elly Anita was honored as a “TIP Report Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery” in recognition of her efforts to combat human trafficking.

I shared this story to reinforce the significant impact passionate individuals and organizations can make in the fight against human trafficking. Your dedication to combatting human trafficking is not only inspiring, but also necessary.

The United States is also a committed leader in combating this global threat. S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said:

“Human trafficking deprives millions worldwide of their dignity and freedom. It undermines national security, distorts markets, and enriches transnational criminals and terrorists. Combating human trafficking is not merely a moral issue or one that affects the interests of the American people; it is also an issue that threatens international peace and security.”

Recognition of the devastating effects of human trafficking grows each year. More than 170 countries have made public commitments to its eradication, promising preventative measures, punishment for traffickers, and care for victims.

However, national governments cannot solve this problem alone. Success requires cooperation and coordination from the highest levels of national government down to the employees and customers of local businesses.

The United States is proud to support the work of our partners to combat human trafficking.

In Timor-Leste, the United States has provided support to analyze law enforcement capacity to address TIP, trained government and civil society members to combat trafficking in at-risk populations, trained investigators and prosecutors to protect victims, and built capacity of law enforcement agencies to collect data and better handle human trafficking cases.

The United States also documents human trafficking activity globally, and provides guidance and incentives to eliminate human trafficking. We share these findings and recommendations with the international community through our Trafficking in Persons Report.

This annual report is the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and reflects the U.S. Government’s commitment to global leadership on this key human rights and law enforcement issue.

Every country, including the United States, can and must do more.

The representatives of concerned governments, organizations, and civil society members gathered here today are the best hope to eliminate human trafficking in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste faces significant challenges in the fight against human trafficking. Poverty, unemployment, a porous western border, and pervasive smuggling create a ripe environment for human traffickers.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are critical in this fight. The United States appreciates the partnerships we have forged in Timor-Leste with IOM and many of the organizations represented in the room today.  We look forward to continuing the dialogue with all of you.

We are also proud to see the leadership role assumed by IOM’s Jacinto Amaral in the fight against human trafficking. Jacinto traveled to the United States as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program and learned best practices in victim protection, law enforcement cooperation, and community capacity building to combat and prevent human trafficking. We know he will go on to do great things for Timor-Leste.

I am heartened to see the turnout and passion in this room. I hope you all will take advantage of the diverse community present today to build connections that enable collaboration and coordination. Think creatively, problem solve nationally and locally, and take time to forge new relationships. Thank you very much for your time and attention.