June 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday human trafficking is a strain on humanity that violates basic human rights. He named China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba among the worst offenders.
Those countries all scored the lowest on the 2019 Trafficking in Person report released by the U.S. State Department. In some countries, human trafficking is state sponsored. While human trafficking is largely seen as an international problem, the report shows 77 percent of victims are exploited in their own country.
"Every individual in every individual country must confront this challenge on its own sovereign territory," Pompeo said. "Many victims never leave their hometowns."
An estimated 24.9 million people around the world are trapped by labor or sex trafficking.
The crowd at the event included human-trafficking survivors.
"You are all heroes. This is a very special morning," Pompeo said. "You are all standing up to ensure that no one else suffers the abuse that you endured. We are inspired every day by your courage."
Human trafficking is largely a bipartisan issue that brings people together, Pompeo said. He cited Trump, who has called human trafficking "modern day slavery."
"Human trafficking is a strain on all of humanity," Pompeo said. "We cannot fall short on this challenge."
U.S. Ambassador for Trafficking John Cotton Richmond said the report explains how countries, including the United States, can disrupt, uncover and prevent human trafficking from ever taking place.
"Their crime strikes at the fundamental truth that every person has value," Richmond said.
Pompeo highlighted some of the ways people and governments can fight human trafficking.
Individuals can learn the indicators for human trafficking and call in suspicious activities to local authorities or the national hotline. Businesses can stop using forced labor in their supply chains. First responders can get better training to screen potential trafficking victims. Government leaders can prioritize investigating and prosecuting labor and sex trafficking cases.