Southeast Asia Bureau Chief
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Nov 4, 2015

Insight: India takes tough line on trafficking victims who get special U.S. visas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Ajay Ahir agreed to come to the United States, he had no idea the recruiter promising a high-wage welding job and legal residency in America was lying. He borrowed 500,000 rupees ($7,633) to pay the recruiter’s fees, told his wife to wait for him in India, and set off to make his fortune.

Almost nine years later, he has not returned.

When he arrived in New Orleans in January 2007,  he was paid only half the $15 an hour he had been promised to work in shipyards devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Nov 4, 2015

India takes tough line on trafficking victims who get special U.S. visas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Ajay Ahir agreed to come to the United States, he had no idea the recruiter promising a high-wage welding job and legal residency in America was lying. He borrowed 500,000 rupees ($7,633) to pay the recruiter’s fees, told his wife to wait for him in India, and set off to make his fortune.

Almost nine years later, he has not returned.

When he arrived in New Orleans in January 2007,  he was paid only half the $15 an hour he had been promised to work in shipyards devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And instead of a green card, his employer, Eagle Staffing of Louisiana LLC, got him a 10-month guest worker visa for blue-collar laborers filling jobs that no American citizens want.

Sep 17, 2015

Congress to seek more transparency in human trafficking report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate committee may draft legislation seeking to add more transparency to the State Department’s annual human trafficking report following concerns it had been watered down for political reasons, a senior lawmaker said on Thursday.

Senator Bob Corker, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, said lawmakers remained concerned over the credibility of the report and whether politics trumped human rights in this year’s rankings of strategically important countries such as Malaysia and Cuba. (1.usa.gov/1l3GLxb)

Aug 14, 2015

Exclusive: Scandal-tainted U.S. Secret Service to hire 1,100 staff – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facing accusations that it cannot adequately protect the White House, the U.S. Secret Service plans to hire 1,100 more officers and agents for an agency besieged by embarrassing scandals and security lapses, two law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the plans said.

The addition of 700 uniformed division officers and 400 agents over five years would expand its staff of 6,647 by nearly 17 percent, the biggest hiring increase in more than a decade at the 150-year-old agency whose job it is to protect the president, his family, and senior officials, along with fighting financial crime.

Aug 3, 2015

Special Report: State Department watered down human trafficking report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

Aug 3, 2015

Special Report – U.S. State Department watered down human trafficking report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

Jul 27, 2015

U.S. upgrades Malaysia, Cuba in human trafficking report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States upgraded Malaysia in an annual report on human trafficking on Monday, despite calls by human rights groups and nearly 180 U.S. lawmakers to keep the Southeast Asian country on a list of worst offenders for failing to suppress trafficking.

The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report also upgraded Cuba from its lowest rank for the first time since it was included in the annual report in 2003.

Jul 27, 2015

U.S. upgrades Malaysia, Cuba in trafficking report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States upgraded Malaysia in an annual report on human trafficking on Monday despite calls by human rights groups and nearly 180 U.S. lawmakers to keep the Southeast Asian country on a list of worst offenders in failing to suppress trafficking.

The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report also upgraded Cuba from its lowest rank for the first time since it was included in the annual report in 2003.

Jul 16, 2015

Exclusive: U.S. poised to upgrade Cuba in annual human trafficking report – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is set to remove Cuba from the bottom tier on its list of worst human trafficking centers, U.S. sources said, in what will be another step in the historic rapprochement between the former Cold War foes.

    The upgrade would lift Cuba to the so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” from Tier 3, where it has languished for 12 years due to allegations of sex trafficking and what U.S. authorities have previously described as “coerced labor with Cuban government work missions abroad.”  

Jul 9, 2015

Rights groups urge U.S. to reconsider Malaysia human-trafficking rating

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Human rights groups and some U.S. lawmakers urged the U.S. government on Thursday to reconsider plans to upgrade Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking hubs, citing a lack of evidence that Malaysia had made advances against trafficking.

The comments come a day after Reuters revealed that the U.S. State Department plans to reverse last year’s downgrade of Malaysia in its annual “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report, a move that could smooth the way for a major U.S.-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries.

    • About Jason

      "As Southeast Asia Bureau Chief, Jason Szep manages text, pictures and television news operations across 10 countries for Reuters. He has been a Reuters correspondent, bureau chief and editor since 1990 and won the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi award in 2007. He is a Boston native and has had postings with Reuters in Toronto, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Boston and Bangkok. His assignments have ranged from Kabul and Islamabad to the U.S. presidential campaign trail during the 2008 election."
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