Friday, June 6, 2008

Guyana shouldn’t be on US trafficking-in-persons radar- Manickchand

Guyana shouldn’t be on US trafficking-in-persons radar- Manickchand
Stabroek News news item. June 6, 2008

Guyana shouldn’t be on US trafficking-in-persons radarGuyana should not be on the US State Department’s radar when it comes to trafficking in persons (TIP) as there are no “significant” numbers of persons being trafficked in this country, according to Minister of Human Services & Social Security, Priya Manickchand.

Stabroek News contacted the minister for her initial reaction to the recent US report on TIP which has for the second consecutive year placed Guyana on their Tier 2 Watch List.

In a brief comment the minister said that Guyana should not even be in that tier and while the report says that official reports of human trafficking may be limited, it said “most trafficking appears to take place in remote mining camps in the country’s interior.”

However, Minister Manickchand said that while Guyana may be facing other problems, such as it pertains to labour, the country does not have any TIP problems that warrants being focused on by the US report.

The report knocked Guyana for its limited progress in law enforcement efforts against traffickers over the last year. It was pointed out that while the government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, which became law in 2005, it is yet to “produce an anti-trafficking conviction under this 2005 law.” The report stated that in June 2007, the government initiated six trafficking investigations, which is level with the number of investigations reported for 2006.

“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.” And it said the prosecution of most trafficking cases is done by untrained police officers and the cases are routinely adjourned or dismissed.

Stabroek News attempted to get a comment from Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee about these concerns but when a call was placed to his office his secretary stated that while he was in office he was unavailable. This reporter was asked to leave a name and a detailed message along with a telephone number and a promise was made to get the message to the minister and have him return the call. A call was not returned.

Meanwhile the report recommended that the country increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders. Also the government should 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.

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.” It said that 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.

Reporting from other nations 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,” the report said.

Further, the report said that the government has sustained a modest level of victim assistance during the reporting period.

“The government operates no shelters for trafficking victims, but it included limited funding for anti-trafficking NGOs in its 2008 budget,” the report said.

The country was commended for its sensitisation programme on the issue. And government’s increased prevention efforts during the reporting period was mentioned as according to the report 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.”

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