THE BAHAMAS: Tier 1
The Bahamas is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children from other Caribbean countries, South and Central America, and Asia subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including in domestic servitude and construction. Vulnerable populations include migrant workers who arrive voluntarily to work as domestic employees and laborers, children born in The Bahamas to foreign-born parents who do not automatically receive Bahamian citizenship, girls exploited in prostitution, and foreign nationals in prostitution and exotic dancing. Traffickers lure victims with false promises and fraudulent recruitment practices, and maintain victims in sex trafficking and forced labor by confiscating passports and restricting movements.
The Government of The Bahamas fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government successfully convicted one trafficker and sentenced two traffickers from previous convictions in 2014, initiated three new prosecutions, adopted a four-year national anti-trafficking strategy and action plan, provided anti-trafficking training to officials, and continued to implement a victim-centered assistance protocol for identified trafficking victims. Victim identification among vulnerable populations in the country remained low, and the government identified no potential Bahamian victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE BAHAMAS:
Increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and appropriately punish traffickers; increase efforts to identify victims of sex and labor trafficking, especially among vulnerable groups, by implementing the victim identification and referral protocol; provide all identified victims with adequate protection and assistance; continue to implement protocols to take potential trafficking victims to a safe location while conducting victim identification interviews, as victims often first appear as immigration or prostitution violators and are reluctant to disclose details of their exploitation in a detention or post-raid environment; involve independent interpreters when conducting inspections of migrant worker labor sites, and conduct private interviews of workers; continue to build partnerships with NGOs to increase grassroots outreach with potential trafficking victims among vulnerable groups; and continue development of a nationwide public awareness campaign to educate the public and officials about human trafficking, as distinct from human smuggling, and its manifestations in The Bahamas.
The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. All forms of human trafficking are prohibited by the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention and Suppression) Act 2008, which prescribes penalties ranging from three years to life imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported 13 new labor and sex trafficking investigations involving 50 potential victims from other Caribbean countries, South and Central America, and Asia, a decrease from 15 investigations in 2013. Authorities ultimately classified only seven of the 50 as victims of human trafficking, which highlighted ongoing concerns that officials often view foreign nationals first through the lens of illegal migration rather than as potential trafficking victims. Officials reportedly screened for trafficking indicators in all cases. One trafficker was convicted for sex trafficking, unlawful withholding of identification documents, and promoting prostitution and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Another trafficker from a previous conviction under the trafficking act and other statutes, was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. In addition, the government initiated three new human trafficking prosecutions during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Government officials funded and delivered training on identifying and assisting victims and investigating and prosecuting traffickers for police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and other officials. The government provided more than 300 employees of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), Department of Immigration, and Department of Public Health officials with training on human trafficking. All new RBDF and RBPF recruits were required to complete a human trafficking awareness training module.
The government sustained efforts to protect victims. Authorities continued to implement a formal victim-centered protocol to guide front-line responders in how to identify trafficking victims and refer them to services. In 2014, the government screened 48 potential adult victims—40 adult females and eight adult males—and two potential child victims, all foreign nationals, in connection with 13 new investigations, compared with 15 new investigations in the previous reporting period. Authorities identified seven sex trafficking victims and referred these victims for appropriate care and assistance including housing, medical assistance, psychological counseling, legal assistance, immigration services, and reintegration assistance. The government reported spending approximately 47,600 Bahamian dollars ($47,600) on trafficking victims’ care, including subsidies to three NGOs. Authorities placed victims in housing rented by the government and facilitated the repatriation of six identified victims, at their request, while making efforts to ensure their participation in ongoing prosecutions. The government provided foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship and granted temporary immigration relief. Authorities encouraged trafficking victims to assist in prosecutions and amended criminal procedure and evidence laws in 2014 to allow trafficking victims potential entry into witness protection programs and to make trafficking witnesses’ testimony by video admissible. In addition, the Criminal Procedure Code allows trafficking victims to submit statements to the court prior to the sentencing of traffickers.
The 2008 anti-trafficking act also provides victims with immunity from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, there were no reports of such immunity being granted in 2014. The UN Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons expressed concern over the small number of trafficking victims formally identified among vulnerable populations and the government’s restrictive immigration policies, which made it difficult for individuals to obtain legal status, thus leaving them vulnerable to trafficking. In response to these concerns, the government mandated all foreign nationals apprehended or arrested be screened for trafficking indicators, developed standard operating procedures, and engaged the public to assist in victim identification. Some potential victims were interviewed while in police custody or in other detention-like settings.
The government increased prevention efforts and took important steps to inform the public and potential victims about trafficking. The government’s inter-ministerial committee to coordinate anti-trafficking policy met regularly, as did the government’s anti-trafficking taskforce, which was charged with ensuring operational coordination on trafficking cases. The government conducted a nationwide public awareness campaign, which educated students about human trafficking, disseminated pamphlets in various public venues to inform potential victims of their rights and available resources, and continued to air public service announcements on television and radio throughout the country. The government, in partnership with NGOs, developed and approved a 2014-2018 national anti-trafficking strategy and detailed action plan with goals related to government infrastructure, prevention, victim and witness protection, investigation and prosecution, partnerships, an implementation timeline, dedicated financial and human resources, and indicators to evaluate progress. Labor inspectors reported using indicators to screen for trafficking when inspecting labor sites. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government conducted awareness efforts targeted at potential clients of the sex trade or forced labor; it closed some sex trade establishments, conducted random inspections and conducted raids on strip clubs and bars to hold purchasers of commercial sexual services accountable. Authorities did not consider child sex tourism to be a problem in The Bahamas and reported no child sex tourism investigations.