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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

India escapes U.S. list of worst human traffickers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- India, which advocacy groups say may have as many as 65 million forced laborers, was spared the worst ranking on the State Department's new list of nations where humans are bought and sold.

The annual Trafficking in Persons report, released Tuesday, says that as many as 800,000 people -- largely women and children -- are trafficked across borders each year. Many are forced into prostitution, sweatshops, domestic labor, farming and child armies.

U.S. officials told CNN the question of India's ranking caused a heated debate between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

Negroponte wanted India listed as a Tier 3 country, or worst offender. Rice overruled him out of concern about alienating the Indian government. India is on the Tier 2 watch list.

Rice agreed to undertake a special evaluation of India in six months, and then take action if India does not make improvements.

Mark Lagon, ambassador at large for the State Department's Trafficking in Persons office, said Tuesday that "many different variables" played into the decision.

The United States, however, is not immune to the problem. The State Department estimates 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year.

India was put on the watch list for the fourth year in a row "for its failure to show increasing efforts to tackle India's large and multidimensional problem," according to the report.

The report found while the Indian government was making significant efforts to combat trafficking, it "did not recognize the country's huge population of bonded laborers," which advocacy groups estimate to range from 20 million to 65 million.

The report also found efforts by Indian law enforcement agencies to punish traffickers "uneven and largely inadequate."

For more details, please refer CNN.

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