Guyana fares badly in US TIP report …no compliance to minimum standards
Kaieteur News news item. Thursday 5 June 2008
Guyana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
This is according to the US State Department report on trafficking in persons in Guyana that was released by the US yesterday.
Although the report did acknowledge that the Country was making significant efforts to do so, it remains on the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ for a second consecutive year for failing to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking, particularly in the area of law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders.
According to the report, Guyana is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.
“While official reports of human trafficking may be limited, most trafficking appears to
take place in remote mining camps in the country’s interior…Amerindian girls are trafficked to brothels near the mining camps and to coastal areas for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude…Young Amerindian men are exploited under forced labour conditions in mining and logging camps…Some women and girls trafficked into brothels in the interior are from northern Brazil.”
It added that reports from neighbouring countries suggest that Guyanese women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation to neighbouring countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Suriname, Venezuela, and that Guyanese men and boys are subject to labour exploitation in construction and agriculture in these same countries.
Trafficking victims from Suriname, Brazil, and Venezuela transit Guyana en route to Caribbean destinations.
The report recommended that the country increase its efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders; confront trafficking complicity by public officials; utilize proactive police strategies such as brothel raids to rescue victims from trafficking situations; provide greater victim assistance; and expand anti-trafficking training for police and magistrates.
As it relates to the prosecution, the reports stated that the Guyana Government made only limited progress in law enforcement efforts against traffickers over the last year despite the fact that it prohibits all forms of trafficking through a comprehensive Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, which became law in 2005, and prescribes punishments ranging from three years to life imprisonment, depending on whether the defendant is convicted on summary judgment or indictment.
Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes, such as rape.
“However, the government has yet to produce an anti-trafficking conviction under this 2005 law.”
It added that since June 2007, government initiated six trafficking investigations, which is level with the number of investigations reported for 2006 and there were no government efforts to investigate or address labour trafficking crimes, despite NGO reports of exploitation and abuse in the nation’s mining and timber camps.
In October 2007, a female suspect was formally charged with trafficking two teenagers for purposes of sexual exploitation but was subsequently released on bail and will return to court this month.
Another trafficking investigation involves allegations against a policeman.
Prosecutors have addressed five cases which had been languishing in court for years by dismissing them.
“Prosecutors report that police and magistrates remained unfamiliar with the country’s anti-trafficking law, and cases tried in the capital moved at a slow pace due to judicial backlog; this excessive delay may have discouraged some victims from pursuing their traffickers…Trafficking cases also suffered from a lack of coordination between police, who receive victim complaints and prosecute cases in lower courts, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, which prosecutes more serious matters…Most trafficking prosecutions are handled by untrained police prosecutors, and are routinely adjourned and dismissed.”
In July 2007, the government added human trafficking to its list of most serious crimes, but the effect of this pronouncement on the handling of trafficking cases is unclear.
There is reliable evidence of public complicity in trafficking by lower-level officials.
The report also lamented the fact that the government operates no shelters for trafficking victims, but it included limited funding for anti-trafficking NGOs in its 2008 budget.
The Guyanese government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution.
It was noted also that government increased prevention efforts during the reporting period and laudibly senior government officials publicly condemned human trafficking, and the government conducted a widespread educational and awareness-raising campaign, which reached more than 50 communities and 5,000 citizens across the country.
The government established an interagency anti-trafficking task force and increased advertising for an anti-trafficking call line to assist potential victims. “It did not, however, carry out any efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.”
Efforts to contact the Human Services Minister, Priya Manickchand, last evening proved futile.