131 TIP victims identified in 2017; US says Gov’t failed to protect victims

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The US State Department on Thursday released its 2017 Trafficking In Person (TIP) report, where it again placed Guyana on Tier 1 for the year 2017 and criticised the Government for not doing enough to protect the victims.

This means that the Government only met the “minimum standards” for the elimination of TIP.

According to the annual report, the Government identified 131 TIP victims in 2017. Of the total, 65 accounted for sex trafficking victims, 35 for labour trafficking and 31 for both forms.

This was compared to 98 in 2016.

According to the report, 115 victims were referred to shelter and psycho-social services, compared with 40 in 2016.

“The Government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labour,” the report said.

It was noted that $10M was provided by the Government to NGO-run shelter for psycho-social services to adult female trafficking victims while $31.2M was given to another NGO that provided housing and counselling to victims of gender-based violence.

The report pointed out that the number of successful convictions remained low while the number of trafficking investigations and new prosecutions decreased.

According to the 2017 report, there were four new trafficking investigations – two for sex trafficking and two for labour trafficking-, 17 prosecutions of which 12 were initiated before 2017 and two convictions where both traffickers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and one was required to pay restitution to a victim.

This was compared to 19 investigations, 19 prosecutions, and two convictions in 2016.

The Ministerial Taskforce for TIP recently said the lack of victims’ interest in testifying hinders its investigations which can then lead to prosecutions.

Meanwhile, the US report lauded the Government for increasing funds to assist victims, identifying and assisting more victims and opening a trafficking shelter outside of the capital area for female victims.

However, the report noted the Government failed to provide adequate protection and shelter outside the capital, or for child and male victims even though this was promised in early 2016.

The US report said victim assistance remained “insufficient, especially in areas outside the capital.”

As it relates to Guyanese nationals victimized abroad, the Guyana Government told the US team that it offered shelter, medical care, and psycho-social assistance to victims upon their return.

Guyanese nationals are subjected to sex and labour trafficking in Jamaica, Suriname, and other Caribbean countries, the report highlighted.

It disclosed that $23.4M was committed by the Ministry of Social Protection to anti-trafficking efforts over the reporting period.

The US State Department recommended that local authorities “vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labour trafficking cases and hold convicted traffickers, including complicit public officials, accountable by imposing strong sentences.”

It also called on those responsible to finalize the written identification procedures to better guide law enforcement officials, train more law enforcement, judiciary officials, and front-line responders, develop standard procedures for protecting foreign victims and provide additional protection for victims to testify against traffickers in a way that minimizes re-traumatization.

Other recommendations include more funding for specialized victim services outside the capital, effective monitoring of cases reported and training for diplomatic personnel on trafficking

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