Included are several democracies with close ties to the United States: Israel, Greece, Turkey and South Korea.
The report was prepared in response to legislation approved in October that calls for imposing economic sanctions in 2003 against countries that fail to take action against traffickers or to protect victims.
The report lists 47 countries that do not meet the minimum standards set forth in the law but are making significant efforts to comply.
"Trafficking is a problem that has reached staggering problems around the globe," says the report. It says the research clearly demonstrates that most governments "are in fact taking steps to curb this horrific practice."
The 23 countries found to be not complying are: Albania, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South
Korea, Sudan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yugoslavia.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, unveiling the report at a news conference, said the overwhelming majority of the victims are women and children who have been "lured, coerced or abducted by criminals who trade in human misery."
He called for collective action by all nations to deal with the problem, whether they are countries of origin, transit or destination.
Powell acknowledged that trafficking occurs within U.S. borders. He said a new task force is being established to combat the problem.
According to the report, the United States is principally a transit point for trafficking in persons, with estimates that 45,000 to 50,000 are trafficked annually.
The report says that worldwide, many trafficking victims "are subjected to threats against their person and family, violence, horrific living conditions and dangerous workplaces."
"Some victims have answered advertisements believing that they will have a good job awaiting them in a new country," it says. "Others have been sold into a modern-day form of slavery by a relative, acquaintance or family friend."
It says the trafficking occurs across border and within countries and is found in rich and poor countries.
"Root causes are greed, moral turpitude, economics, political instability and transition and social factors," the report says.
Countries in the report's "second tier category" are: Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Phlippines, Poland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine and Vietnam.
By George Gedda
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