October 31, 2014

Strides being made in combating TIP – Rohee

The 2010 report of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) in Guyana was on November 5 launched by Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee. The report is the third to be presented by the Ministerial Task Force since government began its own assessment in 2008.

Rohee said the reports released over the years have been clear that “as a country, Guyana has been making strides preventing and responding to TIP, including protecting victims and prosecuting persons”. The country has since seen only one conviction for the offence of trafficking in persons, while several investigations were carried out.

Guyana was listed as being a Tier Two Watch List country in the U.S. 2010 Human Trafficking Report, which stated that the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but it is making significant efforts to do so.

However, the Guyana government said the U.S. had no justification for placing Guyana on the Tier Two list, noting that the 2010 Human Trafficking report contained an unsubstantiated claim that approximately 984 children were removed from exploitative child labour between 2005 and 2009.

Government has also indicated that Guyana does not have a significant number of trafficking victims.

Seven cases of trafficking in persons, involving nine persons, were investigated and according to police records, the victims were aged 13 to 21, all were female and predominantly Amerindian, with a small percent being of East Indian and African descent.

The cases were of a sexual or labour exploitation nature where two suspects were charged with trafficking in persons. Other investigations are ongoing, while a suspect was charged for rape.

“In three of the seven matters investigated, there was no evidence of trafficking in persons. Two of the investigations resulted in the suspects being charged for trafficking in persons, and two of the matters were still being investigated.”

The report stated that one person has been convicted for trafficking in persons in 2010 and according to the report, “a woman was sentenced to three years in prison after she was found guilty of trafficking two girls at One Mile Potaro Road Bartica.

The report said government has several preventative programmes in place to deal with the issue. It noted that those programmes are focused on providing information about trafficking in persons and safe migration to vulnerable communities; enhancing the capacity of hinterland communities to prevent trafficking in persons; to improve cooperation mechanisms amongst key stakeholders, while the increasing capacity of civil society in preventing trafficking in persons and strengthening public-private partnership for preventing trafficking in persons.

Protection of victims

The 2010 report added that government strengthened its “social service provision and legal support to victims of trafficking in persons”. It stated that particular emphasis was placed on victim identification as this is believed to be the foundation in “any anti-trafficking response”. The Human Services and Social Security and Amerindian Affairs ministries and Help and Shelter have collaborated to provide temporary accommodation and appropriate support for persons that have been identified as victims of human trafficking.

“More specifically, the Ministry of Human Services Counter-Trafficking Unit provided transportation, accommodation and legal support during trials, counselling, arranged for medical services where necessary and financial and other support for persons identified as victims of trafficking in per sons.”

Cases of trafficking in persons were reportedly addressed by the Amerindian Affairs Ministry in Regions One, Two, Eight and Nine.

“Despite investigations revealing that the cases were not trafficking in persons, the ministry provided temporary accommodation and return [fares] for the individuals,” the report added

Prosecution

Several programmes were implemented with the Guyana Police Force’s involvement to deal with the prosecution of those involved in trafficking in persons.

The OAS programme was instrumental in strengthening capacity among law enforcement and other personnel.

The report noted five specific objectives that guided the task force in strengthening its capacity in this arena: enhancing the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers; the capacity of prosecutors to prosecute trafficking cases; increase police surveillance and raids; strengthen cooperative mechanisms among neighbouring countries to convict traffickers and protect victims; and to support the regular exchange of information on traffickers between Guyanese and foreign law enforcement bodies.

“The force took decisive action to detect any form of exploitation, especially on business premises, and to carry out the necessary steps for timely intervention. The police worked collaboratively with the Ministry of Labour, Human Services, and Social Security to identify and punish labour and sexual exploitation,” the report said.

Implementing the necessary steps has led to the enforcement of labour laws, guaranteeing acceptable treatment of workers in keeping with their human rights, while providing timely intervention to stop potential victims from being exploited, it added.