US adds Cuba, Saudi Arabia to human trafficking list

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Thursday added Cuba and Saudi Arabia to the lowest tier in a new report on human trafficking.

Both countries were newly designated as Tier 3 countries, which could make both subject to restrictions on U.S. assistance. The countries join China, North Korea, Russia, and Syria as Tier 3 trafficking offenders.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the report on trafficking alongside U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka at the State Department.

Tier 3 countries can face restrictions on "non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance" and on "government official or employee participation in educational and cultural exchange programs," according to the report.

While Pompeo mentioned Cuba by name during his remarks, he did not mention Saudi Arabia, even though it is in the report.

In Saudi Arabia's profile in the report, it is stated that the country "may have funded Yemeni militias that in some cases may have hired minors in combatant roles."

Pompeo added that 25 million people across the world are subject to trafficking including those “in the United States, and indeed in this very city we’re sitting in today.”

The secretary of state also mentioned that 77% of traffickers exploit victims in their own countries.

“Human trafficking is a local and global problem,” he said.

The Trump administration also marked the countries Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as special cases, where humanitarian conflicts make the ability to access information difficult.