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The Huffington Post  |  By Posted:  |  Updated: 06/20/13 EDT

Only 46,000 Human Trafficking Victims Identified Worldwide In 2012, State Department Report Finds

Only 46,570 out of an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking were identified in 2012. That is the conclusion of a new report released by the U.S. State Department.

The State Department's annual Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP) collects global data to create a comprehensive picture of human trafficking around the world. In addition to the low identification rates, the report found that out of 3,162 people prosecuted for human trafficking worldwide last year, only half of the cases led to convictions.

Though the tally of prosecutions and convictions was the highest ever recorded by the State Department, the report acknowledges that there is still great room for improvement in the fight against human trafficking.

According to Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large in the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, an important first step would be to redefine human trafficking as modern slavery rather than as moving of humans across borders for the purpose of exploitation.

“Once you stop looking at [human trafficking victims] as contraband that’s being moved across international borders," said CdeBaca, "you start to focus on the people as individuals, and…from that flows an urgency of identifying and helping the victims.”

CdeBaca told The Huffington Post that this redefinition is key to establishing laws and law enforcement practices that will lead to more victim identifications and more cases against traffickers.

For example, the report congratulates Taiwan for a policy that proactively screens at airports and offers shelter and comprehensive services to individuals who are identified as potential trafficking victims.

To encourage nations to establish practices similar to Taiwan's, the 2013 report ranks every country in the world on a scale evaluating, among other things, their anti-human trafficking laws, legal assistance for victims and government-funded shelter and care for victims.

More than 20 countries garnered the lowest ranking this year, including war-torn nations like Syria, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and regional powers like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

The bottom group also includes Mauritania, an arid West African country with a long history of hereditary slavery. According to a CNN special report, the nation only made holding slaves a crime in 2007. While an estimated 20 percent of the population is still enslaved, only one person has been convicted since the 2007 law was passed.

Although U.S. law authorizes sanctions for nations like Mauritania, Ambassador-at-Large CdeBaca argues that soft power is the most effective tool when addressing nations where a lack of political will limits efforts to combat human trafficking."Because we have our own history with legal slavery," explained CdeBaca, "we have perhaps a different abilty to talk to the Mauritanians about this than other countries."

The U.S. garnered the scale's highest ranking, meaning it complied with its own minimum standards. Other countries that met the goals include almost all nations in Western Europe, in addition to Canada, Nicaragua, South Korea, Australia, and newcomers like Armenia.

Check out this awesome map showing how the U.S. State Department ranked the world on its anti-trafficking efforts (built using DevInfo's visualization tool) below
46000 human trafficking victims

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  • Algeria

    A landscape view dated May 2003 shows the Saharan desert in southern Algeria, near the city of Illizi. (HOCINE ZAOURAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Central African Republic

    Children by the side of the road cheer as a convoy of troops from the Central African Republic, Uganda, U.S. Army special forces, and media, drives through Obo, Central African Republic, Sunday, April 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

  • Democratic Republic of Congo

    A picture taken on June 17, 2003 shows a UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots) child fighter standing by a machine gun fixed on a pickup at a military camp in Bunia, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Cuba

    Back dropped by an image of Cuba's revolutionary hero Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Cuba's national flag, faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday March 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

  • Equatorial Guinea

    Kids play soccer in the Ela Nguema neighborhood of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

  • Eritrea

    A man leans on a tree in the disputed Horn of Africa border town of Badme between Ethiopia and Eritrea on November 5, 2008. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iran

    Iranian women wave national flags and hold posters showing supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before Ahmadinejad's speech on the strategic Persian Gulf island of Abu Musa, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan)

  • North Korea

    In this photo taken on Sunday, April 8, 2012, North Koreans stand in a field as they watch a train pass that was heading to North Phyongan Province, about 50 kilometers (35 miles) south of the border town of Sinuiju along North Korea's west coast. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

  • Kuwait

    A view of a desert camp with Kuwaiti flags flying in the wind during a severe dust storm in Rawdatein, 120 Km North of Kuwait City on Saturday, March 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Gustavo Ferrari)

  • Libya

    Nasgb Abd, 20, a medicine student, has her face painted with the colors of the pre-Gaddafi flag during a demonstration against at the Green Square in Tripoli, Libya, late Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

  • Papua New Guinea

    Villagers search the site of a landslide that struck villages in the Southern Highlands mountainous region of central Papua New Guinea, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Post-Courier)

  • Saudi Arabia

    The sun sets over an old Saudi archaeological palace in Al-Diriyah city on the northwestern outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Sudan

    Refugees from South Kordofan, in the Republic of Sudan, await distribution of basic goods in the Yida refugee camp in Unity State, South Sudan on Saturday May 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Pete Muller)

  • Syria

    In this Tuesday, June 12, 2012 file photo, a Syrian revolutionary flag waves on top of a building on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

  • Yemen

    A Yemeni female protestor holds an infant with Yemen's flag painted on his face and Arabic writing that reads "Leave" during a demonstration demanding the resignation of of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

  • Zimbabwe

    Supporters of six Zimbabwean civic activists found guilty of conspiring to commit public violence in Harare, picket outside the Zimbabwean consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Guinea-Bissau

    In this May 22, 2012 photo, local residents bike and drive along the main road outside Gabu, Guinea-Bissau. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

  • Mauritania

    A Bedouin takes water from a well near Nema, southeastern Mauritania, on May 4, 2012. (ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Russia

    A young couple share a tender moment braving the freezing outdoors at the Red Square in Moscow, on December 20, 2012. (VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uzbekistan

    An aerial view of the ship graveyard near Muynak over the dried up Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

  • China

    Paramilitary guards walk on a closed-off Tiananmen Sqaure, near the Great Hall of the People prior to the unveiling of a new Politburo Standing Committee, in Beijing on November 15, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)