St. Maarten not covered in 2011 Trafficking Report

POSTED: 06/28/11 12:20 PM

GREAT BAY / By Donellis Browne– St. Maarten is the only part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that does not have a country narrative in the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report that was released by the United States Department of State on Monday. All the other islands, Aruba and the Netherlands are mentioned. The report also confirms that Curacao has been placed on the Trafficking Watch list.

There is but one reference to St. Maarten in the report under the country narrative for the Netherlands. That reference states, “The (Dutch) government continued to provide in kind support for human trafficking hotlines in St. Maarten and Bonaire.”

General comments

According to the country narrative Curacao has been placed on the watch list because the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking and has provided no evidence of increasing their efforts over previous years. Though the report acknowledges the significant efforts to become compliant and the fact that authorities identified four potential victims of forced labor, the lack of progress in enacting comprehensive legislation that would prohibit all forms of human trafficking and weak victim protections overshadows the successes. Also casting a dark cloud is the inability to identify victims of forced or child prostitution, despite a large population of people that are vulnerable to sex trafficking.

Aruba also does not fully comply with the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking despite significant efforts to do so. The government has yet to successfully prosecute any trafficking offenders, but the anti-trafficking coordinator has demonstrated “outstanding leadership” in advancing the government’s response. The government has also started several complex prosecutions and has shown improvement in protecting victims by scaling up efforts and measures to identify victims.

The Netherlands remains fully compliant with the minimum standards and was hailed for its regional and international leadership on anti-trafficking reforms. This includes the national rapporteur and other officials continuing with a pragmatic, self critical approach that results in concrete improvements. The Dutch government also sustained a strong effort to proactively identify and assist trafficking victims and improved its response to force labor. The one critique is that sentences for trafficking remained consistently low.

The report states that trafficking for both sexual and labor exploitation was criminalized in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba on September 27, 2010, with the approval of the Criminal Code of the BES Islands. The article (286f) is similar to the one in the Dutch Criminal Code, but the penalties (six years minimum for a first offence to 15 years if someone dies. There are no formal inter-agency working groups on the BES Islands and no potential trafficking victims have been identified. There has also not been any trafficking prosecutions or convictions on the three islands. There have also not been any awareness campaigns targeting potential clients of the sex trade in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

Recommendations

For Curacao the US Department recommends that the government enacts legislation prohibiting all forms of human trafficking and prescribing punishments commensurate with serious crimes like rape, implement formal victim protection measures such as how to identify and assist victims and make transparent efforts to identify and assist potential victims of sex trafficking and forced labor.

The recommendations for Aruba include implementing procedures to guide health officials charged with screening people in prostitution so they can identify and refer the ones who are being forced to the anti-trafficking committee, formalizing victim protections policies for adults and children that include ensuring victims are not punished for the crime and ensuring safe and voluntary repatriation. The Government of Aruba has also been asked to provide the anti-trafficking committee with an independent budget, include the child protection agency as part of the anti-trafficking committee and in training, empowering the anti-trafficking committee to direct formal training opportunities toward committee identified areas of high need, expand multi-lingual public outreach activities and consider ways to educate clients of the sex trade about the causes and consequences of trafficking.

The recommendations for the Netherlands center on scaling up current activities by improving the capacity to investigate and prosecute forced labor and improve outreach to victims, ensuring that people convicted of trafficking receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of the crime, continuing to build capacity on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in terms of identifying victims and prosecuting offenders. It is also recommended that the existing self analysis and critique continue, that the government’s leadership role be expanded through the sharing of best practices on victim identification and assistance, protection of unaccompanied foreign minors and establishment of a self critical approach to enhance global anti-trafficking efforts.

 

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