American TiP-report: St. Maarten remains center for sex trafficking”

POSTED: 08/6/15 6:42 PM

St. Maarten – The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report of the American State Department again depicts St. Maarten as “a source, transit, and destination country for women, children and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. “Government officials have been convicted for complicity in sex trafficking crimes,” according to the report, though this remark seems to refer to the conviction of former MP Patrick Illidge in the Bada Bing case.

The observations in the new report do not differ from the ones made in that of last year. Women and girls from Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Russia are “the most vulnerable to sex trafficking,” the report states. This includes women that work in regulated brothels and strip clubs.

There are indications “that a significant number of migrant workers in St. Maarten are highly vulnerable to forced domestic service and forced labor in construction, Chinese supermarkets, retail shops, security, landscaping and housekeeping,” the TiP-report states.

Government officials have indicated “that workers from Asia and the Caribbean are subjected to exploitative conditions involving indicators of forced labor.”

The government should implement formal proactive measures to guide officials on how to identify and assist victims among vulnerable populations, the report mentions as one of its recommendations to St. Maarten. It should also include a trained victim advocate in routine health inspections at legal brothels to ensure that the rights of prostitutes are protected.

Anti-trafficking laws carry to 24 years for trafficking people. “These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes like rape,” the report notes.

In March of this year, three people were convicted, including a complicit government official, the report states. This is a reference to the Bada Bing case, in which Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel was sentenced to 42 months and former MP Patrick Illidge to 18 months with 6 months suspended. “The brothel associated with the 2014 sex trafficking convictions continue to operate pending appeal in the case,” the report states.

The National Reporting Bureau on Human Trafficking reported “at least four potential human trafficking cases” in 2014. “It did not refer any potential victims to shelter or assistance,” the report states. “The bureau considered them victims of labor exploitation which did not rise to the level of labor trafficking.”

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