Guyana achieves highest ranking in US human trafficking report
Guyana has moved up to a Tier 1 ranking in the latest United States State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report as the country now fully meets the minimum standards in combating the crime.
According to the US State Department, Tier 1 is the highest ranking a country can receive but it does not mean that it has no human trafficking problem or that it is doing enough to address the problem. Rather, the ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem, and meets the minimum standards.
Last year, Guyana was removed from the Tier 2 Watch List and was placed on Tier 2, signaling that the country was doing more to fight the scourge.
“The achievements included approving the 2017-2018 national plan for combating trafficking in persons; increasing the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions; and identifying and assisting more victims for the second year in a row,” the report, released yesterday, said.
Notwithstanding the progress, the report recommended that Guyana fund specialised victim services, including those offered by non-government organisations (NGOs) for child victims and adult male victims; vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labour trafficking cases; and hold convicted traffickers, including complicit public officials. It was also recommended that law enforcement officers, judiciary officials and frontline responders, especially those working outside the capital, be trained on victim identification and referral procedures.
The report said victims must also be provided with additional protection to enable them to testify against traffickers in a way that minimises re-traumatisation. Also recommended was for the number of cases reported to the trafficking hotline to be recorded to promote a rapid investigative and victim assistance response and for training to be provided for diplomatic personnel on trafficking in persons.
According to the new report, the government increased its law enforcement efforts and in 2016 it reported 19 trafficking investigations, 19 prosecutions and two convictions, compared to 15 trafficking investigations, seven prosecutions, and one conviction in 2015, and seven investigations, four prosecutions and one conviction in 2014.
While the court sentenced one convicted trafficker to three years in jail, and required a restitution payment to the victim, the report noted that the court only required the convict in the second case to pay restitution, which is inconsistent with the law. The anti-trafficking task force has appealed and the appeal is still pending.
Meanwhile, the report said that the anti-trafficking unit in collaboration with the police developed identification procedures that officers used informally during the reporting period, pending their formal review and approval from the task force.
The government reported that it identified 98 trafficking victims in 2016 (80 for sex trafficking and 18 for labour trafficking), compared with 56 in 2015. The government also referred 40 victims to an NGO’s shelter in 2016 compared to 17 in 2015. It was noted that while it signed an agreement to provide funding to the said NGO, it did not do so over the last year but instead provided $13M to another NGO that provided housing and counselling services for victims of gender-based violence, including an unknown number of trafficking victims.
The report also said that there were no adequate public-private shelters for male or child trafficking victims, despite the government’s commitment made in early 2016 to open and partially fund a shelter for male victims. Child trafficking victims were placed in non-specialised shelters, and child victims identified in rural areas were placed in holding cells overnight without food before being transferred to the capital for shelter. Male victims were offered voluntary placement in homeless shelters.
It was also found that the government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking as the anti-trafficking inter-ministerial task force remained active and met monthly. The administration also conducted a variety of awareness-raising activities, including targeting school children to educate them on trafficking and how to report suspicious activities. The government, however, did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. During the reporting period, authorities conducted approximately 1,000 impromptu labour inspections in the capital and the interior.