By Arun Kumar
Washington, Jan 15 (IANS) In the wake of the worst diplomatic spat with India over the arrest of an Indian diplomat for allegedly underpaying her nanny, the White House has come out with a strategic action plan for human trafficking “victims”.
The plan does not name Devyani Khobragade, India’s then consul general in New York, but it does address issues relating to domestic workers brought to the US by foreign diplomats and officials working for international organisations.
Among other things the five year plan, running into 84 pages, says the State department will “develop procedures for the in-person registration of domestic workers employed by diplomatic personnel in the Washington, DC, area shortly after their arrival in the United States to apprise them further of their rights and available services.”
However, it makes no mention about registration of domestic workers of diplomats in New York, where the Khobragade incident occurred, or other major cities where foreign consulates are located.
“Recognizing the vulnerabilities inherent in domestic work and the need to foreclose avenues of exploitation, particularly of those employed by diplomatic personnel,” the plan said, the State department “will continue its efforts to educate foreign mission personnel and their domestic workers about US federal, state, and local laws, including protections for domestic workers employed by diplomatic personnel.”
Its “Bureau of Diplomatic Security will continue to educate the nongovernmental community about its ability to identify victims of human trafficking, domestically and overseas, and work on trafficking cases, particularly those related to visa fraud and the foreign diplomatic community.”
The State Department, it said “will continue to address the protection of A-3 and G-5 workers through its regular internal working group meeting on domestic worker issues, where it reviews allegations and cases and discusses strategies and ongoing efforts to prevent abuse and obtain compliance” with the department requirements.
It will also “develop a Know Your Rights informational video to provide information on protections for certain employment- and education-based non-immigrant visa applicants, including domestic workers.”
US Embassies and Consulates overseas will play the video in waiting rooms as appropriate, in languages spoken by the greatest concentrations of those applicants.
In a message on the release of the “Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States 2013-2017”, President Barack Obama said: “Human trafficking is a denial of our common humanity and an affront to our ideals as Americans.”
Declaring that his “Administration is committed to combating this modern incarnation of slavery,” he wrote: “Survivors of human trafficking have had their lives ripped apart, and they deserve holistic, streamlined, and compassionate assistance as they rebuild their lives and their futures.”
“To those who are suffering and have suffered the horrors of human trafficking, our message remains: We hear you. We insist on your dignity. And we share your belief, that if just given the chance, you can forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams,” Obama wrote.
Releasing the plan at a White House event Tuesday, Cecilia Muñoz, the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, said the plan was part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to carry out his pledge to “do even more to help victims recover and rebuild their lives.”
The plan lays out a five-year path for increased coordination, collaboration, and capacity across the federal government and in partnership with other governmental and nongovernmental entities at all levels, she said.
It describes the steps that federal agencies will take to ensure that all victims of human trafficking in the United States are identified and have access to the services they need to recover and to rebuild their lives.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)