The U.S. State Department yesterday slapped the worst tier status on the Central American CARICOM nation of Belize as it released its annual Trafficking in Persons report.
Belize is the only Caribbean country with a tier 3 status again this year, which means its government does not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) and is making no significant efforts to do so.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 is arguably the most important anti-trafficking law ever passed. The TVPA and its subsequent reauthorizations, define a human trafficking victim as a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion.
Some of the world’s worst offenders are on the Tier 3 list including North Korea, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Mali, Mauritania, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The U.S. says Belize is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor with trafficking-related complicity by government officials a big problem. The State Department report said in tourist regions in Belize, foreign child sex tourists, primarily from the United States, exploit child sex trafficking victims.
US officials also said sex trafficking and forced labor of Belizean and foreign women and girls, primarily from Central America, occur in bars, nightclubs, brothels, and domestic service while LGBTI men, women, and children are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking.
The report also said foreign men, women, and children – particularly from Central America, Mexico, and Asia – who migrate voluntarily to Belize in search of work – are often exploited by traffickers who recruit victims using false promises of relatively high-paying jobs.
Instead the migrants are subjected to forced labor in restaurants, shops, agriculture and fishing or to sex trafficking.
The US slammed the Belize government for failing to investigate or prosecute any public officials for alleged complicity in human trafficking-related offenses, despite reports of a significant level of official complicity.
And US authorities urged the implementation of formal procedures to identify and referral to care victims of sex and labor trafficking among vulnerable groups, and the involvement of Spanish-speaking social workers, NGOs, or victim advocates in the process to ensure trafficking victims are not penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of trafficking.
The Donald Trump administration also called for the implementation of victim-centered procedures during raids, including conducting interviews in a safe and neutral location and separately from immigration inquiries and the execution of the anti-trafficking law by vigorously investigating and prosecuting suspected sex and labor traffickers, including complicit officials, and imposing adequate penalties on convicted traffickers.
OTHER CARIBBEAN NATIONS
Meanwhile, four Caribbean nations made the US’ Tier Two Watch List, meaning their governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards but the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing and there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year. They are: Antigua & Barbuda, Cuba, Haiti and Suriname.
Some 8 others made the Tier 2 Watch List, including Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago. That means their governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Only three achieved Tier 1 status, meaning their governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. They are The Bahamas, Guyana and St. Maarten.