Cuba, Saudi Arabia removed from blacklist on human trafficking

Cuba, Saudi Arabia removed from blacklist on human trafficking
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The United States has removed Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia from its blacklist of countries engaged in human trafficking. 

The change in status was revealed Monday by the Department of State. Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia were bumped from Tier 3 — countries whose governments are not meeting minimum standards to fight human trafficking — to the Tier 2 Watch List.

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Cuba and Saudi Arabia are being removed from the blacklist for the first time in at least a decade. Cuba has been on the Tier 3 list since it was first included in 2003, and Saudi Arabia on that list since 2005. 

Malaysia has twice found itself at the Tier 3 level since 2008, and its upgrade this year has drawn a firestorm of criticism from Democrats who say the administration is cynically changing the country’s status so that it can participate in the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Removing Cuba and Saudi Arabia also opens up the U.S. to political attacks, as the Obama administration has made overtures to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and push for a nuclear deal with Iran, a regional rival with Saudi Arabia.

Moving up one tier indicates that while the countries may still not be complying with minimum standards, they are making significant efforts to meet them, according to the State Department.

For example, Cuba's reported efforts to address trafficking included "the prosecution and conviction of 13 sex traffickers in 2013 and the provision of services to victims in those cases," according to the report

Other countries bumped up in the U.S. rankings included Angola, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Uruguay, all moving from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2 list. The Democratic Republic of the Congo went from the Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List.

Several countries fell in the U.S. rankings, including Egypt, Burkina Faso, Bulgaria and the Republic of the Congo, from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch List.