American Trafficking in Persons report 2014: St. Maarten still source, transit & destination for sex trafficking

POSTED: 06/29/14 4:49 PM

St. Maarten – Like last year, the annual Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report from the American State Department describes St. Maarten as a source, transit, and destination for women, children and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. “There are indications that some foreign migrant women in St. Maarten’s sex trade are subjected to debt bondage,” the report states.

The most vulnerable women and girls to sex trafficking are from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Russia and Eastern Europe.

The TiP-report repeats last year’s estimate that around 15,000 “illegal migrant workers are highly vulnerable to forced domestic service and forced labor in construction, Chinese supermarkets, retail shops, security, landscaping and housekeeping. St. Maarten authorities report that workers from India, China, Haiti, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are subjected to exploitative conditions involving indicators of forced labor.”

The report notes that St. Maarten does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. “However, it is making significant efforts to do so.” The report substantiates this observation with the fact that the government has established a national reporting bureau on human trafficking and that it launched an anti-trafficking hotline last year.

The TiP-report recommends that St. Maarten implement a proactive victim protection measures “to guide officials, including health workers, on how to identify and assist victims of forced labor and sex trafficking. Furthermore, the country ought to implement procedure to transport potential trafficking victims to a safe location for victim identification interviews. “Victims often first appear as immigration violators and are reluctant to disclose details of their exploitation,” the report notes.

Another recommendation is to include a Spanish-speaking victim advocate in routine health inspections at legal brothels, and to provide outreach for all incoming immigrants.

Without mentioning the brothel or its owner by name, the TiP-report revisits the 2012 trial of Border Bar owner  Ignacio Augustin Priest who was sentenced to 54 months that year for sex trafficking. “A defendant was convicted for sex trafficking at a regulated brothel. According to media reports, officials granted the establishment a new opening permit despite a request by the prosecutor’s office to close down this brothel.”

Immigration authorities reported “that the standard law enforcement response for women who escape government-licensed brothels continues to be deportation, rather than investigating the circumstances driving their escape.”

In a roundabout way, the TiP-report again brings up the possible ties between high-ranking civil servants and the prostitution industry: “The government did not report any new investigations or prosecutions of government employees, including among high-level officials with alleged financial ties to brothels in the country, for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses.”

The report furthermore reveals that the government established an inter-disciplinary team, headed by the head of immigration to conduct inspections at government-licensed brothels. “Although the government reported conducting two immigration-related enforcements checks for safety code violations in all regulated brothels in 2013, in was unclear to what extent these inspections involved explicit screening for trafficking indicators.”

The State Department found “notable progress in the government’s anti-trafficking prevention efforts” due to the establishment of the national reporting bureau. The director of immigration and border control has the role of national anti-trafficking coordinator.

On the other hand: “the government did not launch any campaign explicitly targeted at reducing the demand for forced labor or discouraging potential clients from engaging in the sex trade in St. Maarten. The government has not identified incidents of foreign child sex tourism.”

 

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