ST. MAARTEN: Tier 2†
St. Maarten is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Russia are the most vulnerable to sex trafficking, including women working in regulated brothels and strip clubs under temporary residence permits for three to six months. Dancers and women in prostitution are dependent upon strip club and brothel managers to obtain work permits, increasing their risks of sex trafficking in these establishments. There are indications some foreign women in St. Maarten’s sex trade are subjected to debt bondage. Reports indicate a significant number of migrant workers in St. Maarten are highly vulnerable to forced domestic service and forced labor in construction, Chinese supermarkets, retail shops, security, landscaping, and housekeeping. Government officials report workers from Asia and the Caribbean are subjected to exploitive conditions involving indicators of forced labor. Government officials have been convicted for complicity in sex trafficking crimes.
The Government of St. Maarten does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government convicted three traffickers in March 2015 who subjected three foreign women to forced prostitution and debt bondage. The government also approved policy guidelines on temporary residency for trafficking victims and witnesses. The government continued to lack formal standard operating procedures to identify potential sex trafficking and forced labor victims and refer them to care.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ST. MAARTEN:
Identify and assist potential trafficking victims by implementing formal, proactive measures to guide officials, including health workers, on how to identify and assist victims among vulnerable populations; proactively implement the anti-trafficking law by vigorously prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing traffickers, including government officials complicit in human trafficking; include a trained victim advocate in routine health inspections at legal brothels to ensure the rights of women in these legal brothels are protected; conduct outreach with all incoming migrants, including domestic workers and foreign women on temporary entertainment visas, to ensure they are informed of their rights, the anti-trafficking hotline, and ways to seek help; consult with the Government of the Netherlands on proactive victim identification efforts; continue to educate the general public, public officials, and victims about trafficking in St. Maarten and its distinctions from human smuggling; and continue implementing the national anti-trafficking plan.
The government made progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. St. Maarten’s June 2012 penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through articles 2:239-245 and prescribes penalties ranging from four to 24 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government initiated two sex trafficking investigations against suspected traffickers in 2014, the same number as in the previous year. During the reporting period, the government assembled special human trafficking investigation teams comprised of Royal Dutch Marechaussee (military police), local police, and immigration and border control officers. The government initiated two new prosecutions involving an unspecified number of defendants. The government convicted three defendants in one case in March 2015, including a complicit government official who subjected three foreign women to forced prostitution and debt bondage, an increase from no convictions in the previous reporting period. Sentences ranged from a nine-month suspended sentence to 42 months’ imprisonment. The convicted government official was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment (six months suspended) and two years’ probation for bribery. The government did not report any additional investigations or prosecutions of government employees, including among former high-level officials with alleged financial ties to brothels in the country, for alleged complicity in trafficking offenses. The brothel associated with 2014 sex trafficking convictions continued to operate pending appeal in the case. The National Reporting Bureau on Human Trafficking (NRB), which also follows smuggling, conducts semi-annual training on human trafficking indicators for immigration officers, ambulance personnel, community police, family doctors, and hospital staff.
The government demonstrated uneven progress in the protection of trafficking victims. The NRB received reports of at least four potential human trafficking cases, but it did not refer any potential victims to shelter or assistance; the NRB considered them victims of labor exploitation, which did not rise to the level of labor trafficking. The government identified three human trafficking victims during the reporting period. Immigration officials and other stakeholders used an NGO-developed checklist of trafficking indicators. The NRB periodically conducted outreach with immigrant communities, businesses, health officials, and the tourism sector on how to report potential victims and trafficking crimes. Authorities did not employ formal standard operating procedures to identify potential sex trafficking and forced labor victims and refer them to care. The government provided support through a victims’ compensation fund to NGOs to provide victim services, including assistance with repatriation, medical and psychological services, and food and clothing. The government continued to inspect government-licensed brothels, but it was unclear to what extent these inspections involved screening for trafficking indicators. The government approved a new temporary residency policy for trafficking victims and witnesses to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, but authorities did not issue any temporary residency permits in 2014. The government does not have a formal policy to protect identified victims from being punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The anti-trafficking law allows trafficking victims to request restitution or file a civil suit against traffickers.
The government sustained trafficking prevention efforts. The government raised awareness through an ongoing campaign by publishing brochures, posters, fliers, public service announcements, and news releases and by participating in radio and television shows. Authorities implemented the 2013 national action plan on trafficking in coordination with local NGOs. The government began working with other Kingdom partners to update a new memorandum of understanding with the Netherlands. The government reported that foreign women employed in the adult entertainment industry received anti-trafficking information on their legal rights and how to report potential human trafficking cases. The NRB visited brothels and night clubs and educated them about trafficking. The government also educated employers of migrant workers about applicable laws. The government did not have diplomatic personnel posted abroad, and thus did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. There were no known reports of child sex tourism occurring in St. Maarten or of residents of St. Maarten participating in international sex tourism.
†St. Maarten is an autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For the purpose of this report, St. Maarten is not a “country” to which the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act apply. This narrative reflects how St. Maarten would be assessed if it were a separate, independent country.