GUYANA: Tier 2 Watch List
Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and children from Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic are subjected to sex trafficking in mining communities in the interior and in urban areas. Victims are subjected to forced labor in the mining, agriculture, and forestry sectors, as well as in domestic service and shops. Children are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. Limited government presence in the interior renders the full scope of trafficking crimes unknown. Guyanese nationals are subjected to sex and labor trafficking in Suriname, Jamaica, and other countries in the Caribbean region. Some police officers are complicit in trafficking crimes, and corruption impedes anti-trafficking efforts.
The Government of Guyana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Guyana is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Guyana was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government released its anti-trafficking action plan in June 2014; however, the government made uneven efforts to implement it during the reporting period. The government convicted only one trafficker—a police officer. The judiciary initially demonstrated positive progress in denying the trafficker’s bail request; however, upon the trafficker’s appeal of his sentence, it subsequently approved the bail request and released the trafficker. Government efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers and identify and assist victims remained limited. The government provided insufficient support to NGOs that identified and assisted a significant number of victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GUYANA:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases and hold convicted traffickers accountable with time in prison that is commensurate with the severity of the crime; provide increased funding for NGOs to identify and assist victims; investigate, prosecute, and convict government officials complicit in trafficking; make additional efforts to enable victims to appear in court and testify against traffickers in a way that does not further endanger victims; develop child-sensitive investigation procedures and court procedures that protect the privacy of children and minimize their re-traumatization; in partnership with NGOs, develop and publicize written standard operating procedures to guide and encourage front-line officials—including police, health, immigration, labor, mining, and forestry personnel—to identify and protect victims of forced labor and forced prostitution; do not punish victims for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking; and offer increased protection and assistance for victims near mining communities.
Law enforcement efforts remained insufficient. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties ranging from three years’ to life imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Weak law enforcement efforts hindered the process of holding traffickers accountable. Between April 2014 and January 2015, the government investigated seven trafficking cases involving an unknown number of suspects and prosecuted four suspected traffickers. Information on the distribution of sex and labor trafficking cases was unavailable. The government convicted one trafficker, compared with three in 2013. The convicted trafficker was a police officer sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for child sex trafficking; he was initially denied bail, but ultimately granted bail pending appeal on April 1, 2015. In 2013, the government released three convicted traffickers on bail while their cases were under appeal; these three convicted traffickers were still free on bail and had not had their appeals heard at the end of the reporting period. In 2014 and previous years, Guyanese courts ultimately dismissed the majority of ongoing trafficking prosecutions. The government trained eight police officers on trafficking victim identification and case investigation. Law enforcement cooperated with the Governments of Suriname and Jamaica on four international sex and labor trafficking cases.
The government sustained some efforts to identify victims, but victim assistance remained insufficient, and the government penalized some suspected trafficking victims. The Ministry of Labour, Human Services, and Social Security reported referring 16 potential victims to care—largely provided by NGOs—between April 2014 and January 2015. The government did not provide information on how many victims were adults or children, male or female, or sex or labor trafficking victims. In comparison, the government reported identifying 23 victims in 2013, including 10 children, five male labor trafficking victims, and 18 sex trafficking victims. Government resources devoted to victim protection remained inadequate, and authorities did not consistently provide assistance specific to the needs of trafficking survivors. The government provided victims medical assistance, food, and counselling. An NGO—with 10 million Guyanese dollars ($49,500) in assistance from the government—operated a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Georgetown that assisted 14 victims of sex trafficking. A separate NGO provided housing and assistance to 12 victims of sex trafficking without government support. Donor-funded organizations provided much of the support for victims. In areas outside of the capital, NGOs provided shelter and assistance to victims, often in dangerous conditions, without any government funding. Longer-term shelter and protection was not available in Guyana, putting victims at risk of traffickers’ reprisals as the government did not punish most traffickers with incarceration. Reports indicated identified victims were re-trafficked or became homeless after receiving inadequate protection services from the government. The government reported it was developing standard operating procedures to guide officials in identifying trafficking victims.
Victims often did not testify in court as officials failed to locate and inform them of court dates. Victims also did not testify when they had no transportation to courts or could not afford residency in Guyana in the months before their court date. The government did not adequately address this problem, which contributed to the low number of trafficking convictions. Guyana’s law protects victims from punishment for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking; however, in November, the government charged, and subsequently placed in police custody, a group of Nepalese suspected to have been subjected to trafficking while illegally present in Guyana. Government officials reported cooperation with NGOs to develop child-sensitive investigation and prosecution procedures; a lack of these procedures put children at risk of reprisal from traffickers. Guyana’s law provides relief from deportation for foreign victims; the government did not report extending such relief to foreign victims over the past year.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government’s ministerial taskforce consisted of representatives from multiple government entities and two NGOs. A leading NGO that has played a significant role in identifying and assisting trafficking victims was not included, despite the organization’s critical role in victim protection. The government released an action plan to address trafficking in June 2014; however, it made uneven efforts to implement the plan. It conducted a variety of awareness-raising activities including distribution of posters at checkpoints in the interior, programs at secondary schools, community awareness initiatives, and publication of a newspaper article in observance of trafficking awareness day. The government operated a trafficking hotline, but did not report how many calls it received. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.