Opinion: Serious concerns (about the human trafficking report)

POSTED: 06/21/13 12:38 PM

The American Trafficking in Persons report paints a bleak picture of St. Maarten though at the same time it shows a certain lack of understanding for how things work in our country.

The authors of the report for instance commends the government for something it has not played a part in: the prosecution of the owner of the Border Bar. After all, prosecuting (or not prosecuting) is beyond political influence or control; it is simply the prerogative of the independent Public Prosecutor’s office.

But this relatively unimportant blooper aside, the report contains plenty of stuff that is reason for serious concerns. First of all, the authors assert that there are 15,000 people on the island (on the Dutch side alone) who are vulnerable to forced labor in retail, prostitution, housekeeping and fields like construction and landscaping. The sheer number is frightening and it is large enough to wake up at least one politician – we would think – to the point where critical questions are going to be asked. You never know.

Another point is obviously that according to the report there are high-level officials involved in sex trafficking and that the government has launched an investigation into this. It is new to us, but maybe we’ll be able to find out more about this in the next couple of days. How is it possible that an American report contains such information while the citizens in St. Maarten have been kept in the dark about it?

And then there is this little nugget: women and girls studying in the Netherlands “may be vulnerable to sex trafficking by residents in the Netherlands.” The report does not substantiate this statement in any way so for the moment there is no reason to assume that girls that travel to the Netherlands to study, actually have fallen in the hands of pimps that force them into prostitution. But the statement must have some foundation, we assume, otherwise it would not have ended up in the report.

What we also had to learn from the report is that “reports indicated trafficking-related complicity among high-level officials who have ties to brothels in the country” and that in March authorities launched an investigation into the allegations. That smells strongly of the ties this newspaper established between former Justice Minister Duncan and the prostitution sector. But an investigation? That’s again new to us.  Talk about transparency.

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