Labour trafficking highlighted as Guyana maintains ‘Tier 1’ ranking in 2024 TIP Report

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The Guyana Government continues to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts to tackle trafficking in persons and as a consequence remained on Tier 1 in the US State Department 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report.

While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem or that it is doing enough to address the crime.

Rather, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has made efforts to address the problem.

“The Government of Guyana fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” the report noted.

Guyana’s efforts included increasing investigations and prosecutions; convicting one trafficker and ordering her to pay restitution; and enacting a new anti-trafficking law with increased penalties.

The government constructed a care home for child migrants, including child trafficking victims; identified more victims and referred them to services; granted more victims residency and work permits; hired more English-Spanish interpreters and other additional staff; and conducted extensive awareness campaigns and training.

Although the government meets the minimum standards, the report noted that it did not vet labor agreements with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Cuban governments for trafficking vulnerabilities, adequately screen PRC and Cuban workers for trafficking indicators, or conduct sufficient inspections of these nationals’ worksites.

“The government did not adequately oversee recruitment agencies, prevent worker-paid recruitment and placement fees, or adequately screen for trafficking victims in the interior of the country,” the report added.

The government was lauded for its increased protection and prosecution efforts.

It was found that the government initiated investigations in 77 cases involving ten suspects (seven for sex trafficking, one for labor trafficking, and two for sex and labor trafficking), compared with 28 cases involving 25 suspects (20 for sex trafficking and five for labor trafficking) in 2022.

The Courts convicted one trafficker under the 2005 anti-trafficking law, compared with three traffickers convicted in 2022.

As reported over the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Guyana, and traffickers exploit victims from Guyana abroad.

The report focused heavily on the exploitation of victims in labor trafficking in the mining, agriculture, forestry, domestic service, and in shops.

In March 2024, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security recorded a 400-percent year-over-year increase in adult men who were victims of labor trafficking. The government also reported some traffickers use social media to publish ads to recruit workers to work on farms, in mines, or as janitors or wait staff in bars or hotels.

The government reported 78 percent of traffickers in 2020 were men, predominantly Guyanese, 14 percent were from Venezuela, and less than 3 percent were Dominican and Haitian. NGOs reported traffickers are often middle-aged men who own or operate nightclubs. Some traffickers are also family members of the victims. Migrants, women, and young people from rural and Indigenous and minority communities, children, and those without education are the most at risk for human trafficking.

Indigenous Warao women are recruited to work as cooks in the mines, but are often forced into commercial sex or exploited by illegal armed groups. While both sex trafficking and labor trafficking occur in remote interior mining communities, limited government presence in the country’s interior renders the full extent of trafficking there unknown.

The report noted that the government has bilateral agreements with the Cuban and Chinese governments. In December 2023, media reported government plans to receive 200 additional nurses in 2024 through the Cuban medical program.

The government previously reported most Cuban workers in the country were medical doctors who were paid by the Cuban government while the Guyanese government provided housing and airfare. Cuban government-affiliated medical professionals working in Guyana may have been forced to work by the Cuban government, the report contended. Chinese nationals working on government projects through the Belt and Road Initiative may have been forced to work by the Chinese government, the report added.

Among the recommendations for Guyana are:

*Increase prosecutions and convictions in sex and labor trafficking cases, including for cases involving child victims.

* Proactively screen PRC and Cuban workers, vet labor agreements with the PRC and Cuban governments for trafficking risks, and regularly conduct inspections of worksites of PRC and Cuban workers.

* Increase labor inspections at high-risk worksites in the mining and logging districts. * Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any such fees are paid by employers.

* Complete a review of existing legislation on labor recruitment and increase the number of labor inspectors.

* Enforce judgments of restitution.

* Proactively screen other vulnerable populations, including Haitian migrants, for trafficking indicators, refer them to services, and ensure potential victims are not deported without screening.

* Hold convicted traffickers, including complicit officials, accountable by seeking adequate penalties, which should involve significant prison terms.

* Ensure security for victims, especially those residing in government shelters, and their relatives.

* Reduce reliance on victims to serve as witnesses in prosecutions.

 

 

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