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Guyana meets “minimum standards” for top anti-Trafficking In Persons rating- US

Last Updated on Friday, 16 June 2023, 6:25 by Denis Chabrol

Though Guyana continues to meet the minimum standards to combat trafficking in persons, the United States (US) said government here needs to increase investigations or prosecutions and screen vulnerable populations sufficiently for signs of trafficking.

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Guyana remained on Tier 1,” the US State Department’s Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report states.

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn welcomed the US’ tier one rating for a seventh straight year and promised to implement a slew of recommendations which include approval of the 2021-2025 National Action Plan (NAP), and seeking long jail terms for convicted traffickers including complicit officials.

“The report has included a number of recommendations that will enhance Guyana’s efforts to combat this crime and offer greater support to victims of human trafficking. I wish to state, that we welcome these recommendations and have commenced efforts to implement same,” said Mr Benn who c0-chairs the TIP Task Force along with Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr Vindhya Persaud.

If a country slips to tier three, the US government may withhold or withdraw nonhumanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance. In addition, countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs. The US would also oppose assistance- except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance- from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Guyana has also been asked to formally approve and implement victim Standard Operating Procedures and fund specialized victim services, particularly for child, adult male, and Venezuelan victims in their native language, including for indigenous populations.

The US credited Guyana with convicting three traffickers’ identifying more victims and referring them to services; consistently implementing a 10-day reflection period, including shelter for victims; raising awareness in Indigenous languages; expanding the inclusivity of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons ; and initiating a program to screen children in situations of homelessness.

The report also recommends that Guyana increases the number of labour inspectors, complete a review of existing legislation on labour recruitment, and take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any such fees are paid by employers.

In that regard, the TIP report states that the fines for labour violations were low and the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to adequately carry out inspections.

While labour officers trained on trafficking frequently conducted impromptu investigations of work sites and business premises in the mining and logging districts and in the capital; the government did not report identifying any victims through labour inspections. The Labour Ministry trained labor officials on child labor, the report added.

The Guyana government, according  to the US, needs to enforce restitution judgments, reduce the reliance on victims to serve as witnesses in prosecutions, and ensure security for victims, especially those residing in government shelters, and their relatives.

On the matter of restitution judgments, the State Department highlights that the anti-trafficking act required witness testimony of victims in order to prosecute trafficking cases. But the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security and non-governmental organisations noted some victims may have declined to participate in prosecutions after receiving a pay-off from the trafficker, because of familiarity and trust built with the trafficker, or due to income received through commercial sex that earned a minimum of 60,000 GYD ($280) per day while the national wage was 2,766 GYD ($13) per day. “The government reported it could not guarantee the safety of victim-witnesses and their relatives,” the report adds.

The US also does not want vulnerable populations, including Haitian migrants and Cuban medical workers to be deported without being screened for trafficking indicators and referred to services. The US TIP Report on Guyana notes that some Cuban nationals working in Guyana may have been forced to work by the Cuban government

The State Department says that by the end of the reporting period, the government had not renewed a data sharing agreement with an international organization to collect data from at-risk populations, including migrants; the agreement remained in Cabinet for discussion.

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June 2023