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Indonesians in forced labour on Guyana-registered vessels; US honours Women Miners President for TIP fight

GWMO President Simona Broomes

Even as the United States urged Guyana to put an end to forced labour of Indonesians aboard Guyana-flagged fishing vessels, a local campaigner against Trafficking In Persons has been honoured by American Secretary of State John Kerry.

President of the Guyana Women Miners Association (GWMO), Simona Broomes credited the US’ annual TIP report for creating greater consciousness about the phenomenon and laws.

“Even if the report comes out negative against my country, I will be more motivated by the negative comments and will want to work with it and on it to make it a positive direction,” she said in a video released by the embassy.

Broomes has unearthed and facilitated the rescue of children working in gold mines and women being victims of trafficking for sex and forced labour.

US Ambassador to Guyana, Brent Hardt credited GWMO for its extraordinary work under the courageous leadership Broomes, who was recognized Wednesday by Secretary of State Kerry as a 2013 TIP Hero.  He said after seeing first-hand the plight of trafficking victims, she decided to take action to rescue victims, bring cases to the attention of authorities, and help ensure adequate protection.  “Broomes and her GWMO colleagues have shown extraordinary bravery and leadership, most recently in rescuing four young victims in Puruni,” said the American envoy.

He praised Broomes for her commitment in identify and rescuing more trafficking victims from a life of slavery.  “All of Guyana should be proud of what she and her Organization have been able to accomplish to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society,” Hardt added.

Guyana was this year again ranked Tier Two because government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable with jail time over the previous reporting period.

At the same time, the US noted that the great majority of prosecutions initiated in other reporting periods were dismissed when the prosecutors were unable to proceed, usually because witnesses declined to testify.

Figures in the report show that there were two new labour trafficking investigations and 16 new sex trafficking investigations during the reporting period. The government identified 19 girls, two boys, three women, and two adult men as suspected human trafficking victims during the reporting period, an increase from 13 victims identified the previous year.

At the same time, the US observed that there were no reported convictions of sex or labour trafficking offenders during 2012 and no government official was reportedly investigated. “The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting
period,” the State Department stated.

The 2013 US State Department Report notes that “Indonesian workers were subjected to forced labour on several Guyanese-flagged fishing boats off of the coast of Trinidad
and Tobago during the reporting period.” This is the first time that the US has mentioned that Indonesians are victims of forced labour on Guyanese-registered vessels. The trafficking of Venezuelans, Brazilians, Surinamese and Guyanese- including the internal movement of Amerindian women- for prostitution has been highlighted in previous accounts by the State Department.

The US recommended that Guyana investigates and holds accountable the perpetrators of forced labour on Guyanese-flagged vessels.

Other recommendations include the need to boost efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable by vigorously and appropriately investigating and prosecuting forced prostitution and forced labour. The US also wants government to partner with non-governmental organisations to develop standard operating procedures to guide and encourage frontline officials, including police, health, immigration, labor, mining, and
forestry personnel in the identification and protection of victims of forced labor and forced prostitution as well as ensure that victims are not punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking. The US also wants a climate of open dialogue on trafficking and encourages people to come forward to authorities on potential cases.

Guyana was, however, credited for training police in Bartica, Port Kaituma and Lethem in November 2012. Police also conducted sensitization training for students, nurses, and regional officials in January and February 2013. Also conducted by the police were sensitization training sessions for students, nurses, and regional officials in January and February 2013. Officials conducted awareness and sensitization sessions that targeted several vulnerable communities as well as a trafficking awareness workshop for 40 participants. The Ministry of Human Services, funded by United Nations Development Program, also conducted a campaign in Region Nine to educate residents and visitors on the issue of human trafficking. The Region Nine outreach included setting up a booth at the popular annual Rupununi Rodeo. Officials did not report any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.

The GWMO President hoped that her recognition would empower and motivate victims to join in the fight against TIP. “Let us put all of us on notice that Guyana is going to deal with Trafficking In Persons in a mighty way like never before,” said Broomes.

Formed in January 2012, GWO has more than 400 members, a number of whom is responsible for an anti-TIP unit.