Washington is accusing the two countries of a lack of effort in the struggle against human trafficking.

On June 20, the U.S. added Saudi Arabia and Cuba to its blacklist of countries that did not do enough to fight human trafficking – which may lead to sanctions. The two countries are accused of not taking the necessary steps to reduce infringement of freedom and human dignity.

In an annual report, the U.S. State Department criticized its main ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, for its abuse of foreign labor. According to the report, Saudi Arabia “continued to fine, jail, or deport migrant workers for prostitution or immigration violations, some of [which workers] were likely unidentified trafficking victims.”

This blacklist – Tier 3 of the ranking – notably includes North Korea, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China, China having been added in 2017. Being on the list means the U.S. can limit or stop providing help to those countries through organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. This year, Laos and Gabon were removed from the blacklist.

Cuba ‘Did Not Take Action To Address Forced Labor.’

Just like Saudi Arabia, Cuba is now in the lowest tier of the annual list. They “did not take action to address forced labor in the foreign medical mission program, despite persistent allegations Cuban officials threatened and coerced some participants to remain in the program.”

The secretary of state presented the 2019 report with Ivanka Trump, White House adviser and the president’s daughter, at his side. "That action and the message that goes with it is very clear - if you don't stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you,” Mike Pompeo said. Last year, the U.S. acted against 22 countries based on this human trafficking classification.

During his speech, the secretary of state did not mention Saudi Arabia, while President Trump deeply strengthened the ties with the Saudi kingdom. On the other hand, Pompeo said he worries about the situation in western China, where the Uyghurs are being locked up in work camps.