Malaysia, Cuba off US list of worst trafficking offenders (dpa German Press Agency)

Washington (dpa) – Malaysia and Cuba are among the countries removed
Monday from a list of nations the United States deems the worst in
addressing human trafficking.

The move prompted criticism from human rights groups that charged the
upgrades were motivated by US political and trade interests rather
than actual improvements in conditions.

Malaysia is part of a Pacific Rim trade deal being negotiated between
the US and 11 other nations, and the US has just resumed diplomatic
ties with Cuba after more than half a century.

“The decision to upgrade Malaysia lacks credibility,” said Melysa
Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking.
“Thousands of trafficked men, women and children are in dire jeopardy
each day.”

“Allowing political interests to influence how governments are held
accountable for this horrendous crime calls into question both the
TIP [Trafficking in Persons] Report’s integrity and the United
States’ commitment to preventing human trafficking,” she said.

The State Department denied any political motivations in the report
and noted that being upgraded from its list of worst offenders to its
“watch list” shows some improvements had been made even as the
countries remain of concern.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia and
Uzbekistan were also removed from the State Department’s blacklist.

Belarus, Belize, Burundi, Comoros, the Marshall Islands and South
Sudan were downgraded from the watch list to the countries who do not
comply with minimum standards to address human trafficking.