Guyana urged to increase victim assistance efforts – US report

Recognising that more needs to be done to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the United States Department of State has outlined a number of recommendations for Guyana to increase its capacity to efficaciously address such cases.

In its Trafficking In Persons 2016 Report, which was published on Thursday, Guyana was ranked in Tier Two on the Watch List.

The document pointed to the fact that Government increased protection efforts, but victim assistance remained insufficient, especially in areas outside the capital city and for male victims.

In this regard, the report suggested that Guyana continued to vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labour trafficking cases and hold convicted traffickers accountable – including complicit officials –by imposing sentences that commensurate with the severity of the crime, denying bail, and ordering restitution, where appropriate.

It called on the Government to finalise and issue written procedures to guide and encourage front-line officials, including Police, health, immigration, labour, mining, and forestry personnel, to identify and protect victims of forced labour and sex trafficking.

The report also called for Government to implement training for law enforcement, judiciary officials, and front-line responders, especially those working outside the capital, on victim identification, referral to services, and victim-centred investigations.

The report also underscored the need to allocate additional staff to the Inter-Ministerial Anti-Trafficking Unit and to provide sufficient funding and resources for it to investigate trafficking in the mining sector and conduct awareness campaigns. The need for additional protection for victims to enable them to appear in court and testify against traffickers in a way that does not further endanger them was also alluded to in the report and in this regard, Government was urged to increase funding for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that identify and assist victims.

The report also highlighted that there needed to be increased efforts to ensure that victims were not summarily deported without the opportunity to assist in a trial against their traffickers and they were not penalised for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.

Government was also encouraged to “develop child-sensitive investigation measures and court procedures that protect the privacy of children and minimise their re-traumatisation; regularly convene the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce and finalise and implement the 2016-2017 national action plan; offer increased protection and assistance for victims near mining communities outside the capital; and continue to raise awareness of trafficking among civil society”.

In the report, it was highlighted that Guyana was a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.

The document reported that victims were subjected to forced labour in the mining, agriculture, and forestry sectors, as well as in domestic service and shops.

It said while both sex trafficking and forced labour occurred in interior mining communities, limited Government presence in the country’s interior rendered the full extent of trafficking unknown.

With regard to children, the report said this group was particularly vulnerable to sex and labour trafficking.

Additionally, the document said Guyanese nationals were subjected to sex and labour trafficking in Jamaica, Suriname, and other Caribbean countries, and some Police Officers were complicit in trafficking crimes. The report also noted that corruption impeded anti-trafficking efforts.