Six CARICOM countries put on Watch List for human trafficking

Nelson A. King

WASHINGTON, USA, Monday June 24, 2013 – Even as Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments, during the past year, have seemingly made efforts in addressing human trafficking, the United States says many of them have still not done enough in tackling the issue. 

In this nexus, in its 2013Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the US Department of State placed six CARICOM countries – Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago – on its Tier 2 Watch List.

Another four – Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – have been listed on the Tier 2 List. 

In distinguishing the two “lists” Washington defines countries on the Tier 2 Watch List as those whose governments “do not fully comply” with the minimum standards in its Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is, among other things, “very significant or is significantly increasing”.

Countries on the Tier 2 List, on the other hand, are those whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are simply making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. 

The State Department said Haiti is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

It says most of Haiti’s trafficking cases comprise the estimated 150,000 to half a million children in domestic servitude in households throughout the French-speaking Caribbean country.

 In addition to experiencing forced labour, the report says these children are vulnerable to beatings, sexual assaults and other abuses by family members in the homes in which they are residing. 

Washington said “dismissed and runaway children” from domestic servitude make up a “significant proportion” of the large population of street children who end up forced into prostitution, begging or street crime by criminal gangs in Haiti.

It said children working in construction and agriculture are also vulnerable to forced labour, adding that children in “some unscrupulous” private and non-governmental (NGO)-sponsored residential care centers are at a “high risk” of being placed in a situation of forced labor. 

The State Department said that women and children living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, set up as a result of the 2010 earthquake, are also at an increased risk of sex trafficking and forced labour and that an estimated 1.5 million Haitians that entered the camps, about 357,785 remain as of March 2013. 

The report notes of documented cases of Dominican women in forced prostitution in Haiti, and that Haitians are exploited in forced labour in the neighbouring Dominican Republic and elsewhere in the Caribbean, as well as in the United States. 

The report claims that Barbados is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, stating that evidence suggests foreign women are “forced into prostitution” in the country. 

It said that in the past, foreigners reportedly have been subjected to forced labour in Barbados, with the highest risk sectors being domestic service, agriculture and construction. 

The State Department said legal and illegal immigrants from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Guyana “appear to be vulnerable to trafficking” and the prostitution of children is “known to exist” in Barbados, where local and immigrant children engage in transactional sex with older men for material goods, “a phenomenon documented by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) throughout the Eastern Caribbean.” 

The report said the Barbadian government launched at least two trafficking investigations but “did not address weaknesses in its anti-trafficking legal framework or initiate any prosecutions of alleged trafficking offenders, raising concern about impunity for human trafficking.

“Barbadian law does not appear to prohibit all forms of human trafficking and does not prescribe penalties that are sufficiently stringent or commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape,” it said, adding that the Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) Bill of 2011prohibits some forms of trafficking, “though it appears to be inconsistent with international standards because it requires movement across borders as a necessary element of human trafficking”.

Washington claims that the Barbados government did not establish formal, systematic procedures to guide officials across the government in proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking and forced labor and referring them to available services, “though it reportedly employed interim procedures during the last year”.

In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, the State Department 

The State Department says that Trinidad and Tobago is a destination and transit country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and adults subjected to forced labour. 

It notes that, in previous years, “Trinbagonian victims”? have been subjected to sex trafficking in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The report notes that women and girls from South America and the Dominican Republic are also subjected to sex trafficking in “Trinbagonian brothels and clubs” and that economic migrants from the Caribbean region and from Asia, including India and China, are vulnerable to forced labour. 

The report claims that some companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago reportedly hold the passports of foreign employees, “a common indicator of human trafficking, until departure” and that there have also been anecdotal reports of migrants in forced domestic service. 

The report says country experts reported an increasing number of Nigerians working in security, “who may be trafficking victims” and that “Trinbagonian children were vulnerable to forced labour, including forced scavenging of trash.

“As a hub for regional travel, Trinidad and Tobago is a potential transit point for trafficking victims travelling to Caribbean and South American destinations,’ the report noted, adding that “as an island-nation outside the hurricane belt, Trinidad and Tobago experiences a steady flow of vessels transiting its territorial waters, some of which may be engaged in illicit activities, including forced labour in the global fishing industry” 

The report said the government “did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period.

“During the reporting period, the government made progress by proclaiming its anti-trafficking law and establishing a counter-trafficking unit.

“These efforts, however, were overshadowed by the government’s failure to properly screen and protect hundreds of potential trafficking victims, including the almost 200 victims in a significant forced labour case involving five fishing vessels stranded off the country’s coast for the majority of the reporting period,” the report noted. 

In addition, after the proclamation of the anti-trafficking law and the establishment of the counter-trafficking unit, Washington said law enforcement authorities in Trinidad and Tobago conducted a March 2013 raid that resulted in the arrest of about 75 foreign women. 

“Despite having the infrastructure in place to screen the women, law enforcement charged the women with solicitation and did not screen them for trafficking indicators or refer them for care and assistance.

“Furthermore, experts reported that trafficking-related complicity of public officials significantly hampered the government’s ability to effectively address the trafficking problem in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The State Department describes Guyana as a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, stating that Guyanese and foreign women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution in the country. 

It said there have been concerns that exploitative child labour practices, some of which likely include human trafficking, occur within the mining industry, agriculture and forestry sectors. 

The report says traffickers are attracted to Guyana’s interior mining communities, “where there is limited government control” and that a lack of economic opportunities in more populated coastal regions of the country draws individuals, some underage, to seek employment in the interior, “where they sometimes fall victim to trafficking”

It said Indonesian workers were subjected to forced labour on several Guyanese-flagged fishing boats off of the coast of Trinidad and Tobago during the reporting period and that there is also concern that Venezuelan and Brazilian women in prostitution are vulnerable to trafficking in Guyana.

The report said that Guyanese nationals have been subjected to human trafficking in other countries in the Caribbean and despite efforts, the Guyana government “ failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable with jail time over the previous reporting period.

“While there have been some efforts to protect victims, the lack of punishment for trafficking offenders creates an enabling environment for continued human trafficking. The government did not provide evidence that it followed through with prosecution for high-profile suspected child trafficking cases reported in the media,” it added.

The State Department said the situation in neighbouring Suriname is almost the same and that women and girls from Suriname, Guyana, Brazil and the Dominican Republic are subjected to sex trafficking in the country. 

During the year, Washington said the Brazilian government identified Suriname as a “key transit point for Brazilian trafficking victims exploited in Europe”.

The State Department also says that media reports and past convictions indicate that debt bondage and sex trafficking occur within the Chinese migrant community in Suriname. 

It said NGOs and government sources continued to indicate that some women and girls are exploited in sex trafficking in Suriname’s interior around mining camps, “although the remote and illegal nature of these camps renders the scope of the problem unknown, and there is little government presence in these areas”.

The report also says that migrant workers in agriculture and on fishing boats off the coast of Suriname are “highly vulnerable” to forced labour, as are children working in informal urban sectors and gold mines.

It said while the Suriname government during the year, increased the number of sex trafficking cases prosecuted and identified an increased number of child sex trafficking victims, it “did not, however, report any trafficking convictions, raising concerns about accountability for trafficking offenders. 

“Victim protection remained inadequate, and local official complicity was a serious concern,” the report said, as it placed Suriname on the Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

St. Lucia is a destination country for persons subjected to forced prostitution and forced labour and Washington said legal and illegal immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and South Asia, especially those working in domestic service, reportedly are the groups most vulnerable to human trafficking. 

It said there are indications children under 18 are “coerced to engage in commercial sex in St. Lucia” and that sex trafficking victims are likely found among foreign women in prostitution.

Police and other sources said the most likely sex trafficking perpetrators in the country are ?pimps, strip club operators, and brothel owners.?

Despite limited steps, it says the St. Lucian Government “did not demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year,” adding that it also “did not make progress in proactively identifying and assisting suspected trafficking victims or prosecuting trafficking offenders”. 

The report characterizes Jamaica as a source, transit and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour and that the exploitation of local children in the sex trade as a form of sex trafficking, “remains a serious problem”.

Washington said ys sex trafficking of children and adults likely occurs on the street, in night clubs, bars, and in private homes throughout Jamaica, including in resort towns. 

In addition, it said massage parlours in Jamaica reportedly often lure women into prostitution under the false pretense of employment as massage therapists and then withhold their wages and restrict their movement, “key indicators of human trafficking.

“People living in Jamaica’s poverty-stricken garrison communities, territories ruled by criminal “Dons”, effectively outside of the government’s control, are especially at risk,” the report said, adding that NGOs also expressed concern that children from poor families sent to better-off families or local “Dons”, with the intent of a chance at a better life, are “highly vulnerable to prostitution and forced labour, including domestic servitude”.

The report said other at-risk children are those working in the informal sector, such as on farms, or in street vending, markets and shops, as well as those engaging in begging. 

“NGOs and the government remain alarmed at the high number of missing children, and are concerned that some of these children are falling prey to forced labour or sex trafficking.”

The report said there is evidence that foreign nationals are subjected to forced labour in Jamaica and aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in Jamaican waters, and that child sex tourism reportedly occurs in Jamaica. 

Washington said for yet another year, Jamaica did not convict trafficking offenders or officials complicit in human trafficking, but points out that the government made efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking and “demonstrated a proactive, victim-centred approach in identifying and assisting suspected forced labour victims aboard a fishing boat, which was an important accomplishment for the region as forced labour on fishing boats often occurs undetected”.

The State Department says Antigua and Barbuda is a destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, stating that legal and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean region, notably from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, as well as from Southeast Asia, reportedly comprise the population most vulnerable to trafficking. 

It says, according to several sources, forced prostitution occurs in bars, taverns and brothels, and that incidences of forced labor have occurred in domestic service and in the retail sector.

The report says that while the Baldwin Spencer administration does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, “it is making significant efforts to do so” and that the government made “little discernible progress” in the prosecution of trafficking offenders during the reporting period. 

Belize is regarded also as a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour and that a common form of human trafficking is the “coerced prostitution of children, often occurring through parents pushing their children to provide sexual favours to older men in exchange for school fees, money and gifts”.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like the other Caribbean islands was identified as a source, transit and destination country for some men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. 

The report says officials have expressed concern about the possible existence of adults pressuring children under the age of 18 to provide sex acts to men in exchange for money or gifts, “a form of sex trafficking”.(CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)