Six CARICOM countries on Watch List for human trafficking

Six CARICOM countries put on Watch List for human trafficking

 The US State Department has placed six Caribbean countries (including Guyana) on its Tier 2 Watch List, with another four appearing on the Tier 2 List.

By Nelson A. King  – WASHINGTON, USA,  June 24, 2013 – (Caribbean 360)

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 2013 Trafficking 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.

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