The U.S. and several Asian countries are boosting their efforts to fight human trafficking and the exploitation of immigrants and refugees.
President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region.
Obama said the leaders at the summit have "laid out a common vision for the region," namely "an open, dynamic, economically competitive Asia Pacific that respects human rights and upholds a rule-based order."
To support the effort, Obama announced that the U.S., through its Agency of International Development, would launch a five-year plan of action to fight human trafficking in the region that includes strengthening cross-border collaboration between "source, transit and destination countries."
The program, which provides $12 million for the first year, also would "leverage the private sector" to reduce human trafficking practices in the global food supply chain, and support improved research and data collection to target international criminals engaged in human trafficking.
It builds upon ongoing U.S. efforts in East Asia and China to protect vulnerable migrants at risk of human trafficking, including training initiatives for government officials to identify and assist these migrants.
USAID in 2015 committed to a program across Asia aimed at preventing and combating human trafficking in 11 countries across the region. In its first year, the program has provided direct assistance to 250 trafficked persons in Cambodia and emergency assistance to more than 5,400 deportees from Thailand, of whom 140 were identified as trafficked persons.