ARUBA: Tier 2
Aruba is a source and destination country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Venezuelan women are vulnerable to trafficking in Aruba’s commercial sex trade and foreign men and women are vulnerable to forced labor in the service and construction industries. Chinese men and women working in supermarkets, Indian men in the retail sector and domestic service, and Caribbean and South American women in domestic service are also at risk of forced labor. A 2013 international organization report identified women in Aruba’s regulated and unregulated prostitution sectors, domestic workers, and employees of small retail shops as populations most vulnerable to trafficking. This report also noted some children may be vulnerable to sex trafficking and to forced labor in Chinese-owned supermarkets and restaurants.
The Government of Aruba does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government drafted a new national anti-trafficking action plan for 2015-2019, formalized standard operating procedures to guide front-line responders in the proactive identification of trafficking victims and their referral for care, and appointed a deputy national anti-trafficking coordinator. The government screened potential trafficking victims, identified one potential victim, initiated one investigation, and sought to uphold a conviction; but did not initiate any new prosecutions or secure any new convictions during the reporting period.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ARUBA:
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers; proactively identify trafficking victims among all vulnerable groups, including domestic workers, migrants in construction, supermarkets, and the retail sector, and women in the regulated prostitution industry and who hold adult entertainment visas; continue to systematically provide information to all immigrant populations upon their arrival in Aruba so they are familiar with their rights and where to go for help; finalize and implement the victim assessment and referral process; formalize agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims; allocate sufficient resources to enable the national anti-trafficking taskforce and national coordinator to improve anti-trafficking efforts; and implement the 2015-2019 national anti-trafficking action plan.
The government did not initiate any new prosecutions for trafficking offenses for the second consecutive year, but sought to uphold the conviction of a human trafficker in the court of appeals. Articles 203a and 286a of the criminal code prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons. In 2014, the government enacted amendments to the penal code that increased penalties for trafficking offenses to eight to 18 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 25,000 to 100,000 florins ($14,045-56,180). These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The national coordinator received five referrals for potential sex trafficking and forced labor cases, but found only one potential forced labor case warranted further investigation. The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers in 2015—it similarly failed to prosecute or convict any traffickers in 2014; in 2013 there were two prosecutions and convictions. A trafficker convicted in 2013 appealed his conviction; the public prosecutor sought to uphold the conviction and sentencing, but the court has not yet rendered a judgment. The public prosecutor and police screened all human smuggling cases for indicators of human trafficking. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The national coordinator for anti-human trafficking and smuggling provided training on trafficking indicators to police officers and managers, prison guards, health and social affairs officials, and immigration officials.
The government sustained progress protecting victims. The government drafted a trafficking victim referral process to guide officials using a three-tier system of high, medium, and low urgency based on factors such as risk of bodily harm or injury, vulnerability of the potential victims involved, and living conditions at the moment of assessment. Upon referral by the national hotline, police, or a concerned resident, the national coordinator screened six potential trafficking victims and identified one potential labor trafficking victim in 2015, compared with one potential labor trafficking victim identified in 2014 and two potential victims identified in 2013. The labor trafficking victim received services from local NGO partners, and the case remained under investigation. Multi-disciplinary teams of police, labor officials, and immigration officials conducted inspections aimed at identifying potential labor exploitation. The government operated a hotline for trafficking victims and had a policy to provide potential victims with emergency shelter, food, medical care, legal assistance, temporary immigration relief, and financial and repatriation assistance. Authorities maintained informal, verbal agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims. The national anti-trafficking taskforce lacked a dedicated budget for shelter and other forms of victim assistance, but formally requested funding. Foreign victims are entitled to the same rights and protection as Arubans. Officials conducted risk assessments before deciding whether victims could leave shelters unchaperoned, and their movement was limited if their lives were at risk. The anti-trafficking taskforce continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the most common signs of human trafficking. The law authorizes the extension of temporary immigration relief for foreign victims for three to six months on a case-by-case basis, and allows foreign victims whose employers are suspected of human trafficking to change employers; no identified victims required such relief in the reporting period. The criminal code enables trafficking victims to receive restitution not to exceed 50,000 florins ($28,000) for financial and emotional damages inflicted by their traffickers. Trafficking victims may file civil suits against their traffickers, and there is no limit for damages awarded in such suits. There were no reports of the government punishing victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government increased prevention efforts. The taskforce completed a national anti-trafficking action plan for 2015-2019, which was pending approval by the minister of justice. The government also assigned to the taskforce a deputy national coordinator with anti-trafficking experience in the Netherlands. In 2015, the government partnered with the Netherlands and other Kingdom of the Netherlands partners to update their memorandum of understanding to strengthen coordination and cooperation on anti-human trafficking efforts. The government continued its on-going trafficking awareness campaign, which included posters and flyers in four languages targeting both victims and the general public; the campaign was linked to a hotline staffed by the national coordinator trained to assist trafficking victims. The minister of justice led an outreach event for more than 500 high school students on National Anti-Human Trafficking Day to raise awareness about sex trafficking. In an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, 2014 amendments to the criminal code criminalized the receipt of services from a trafficking victim if the individual knows the victim is being forced or coerced to provide the services. The government developed an information card for immigrants on how to recognize forced labor, which will be placed on work permit applications in 2016. The government adopted new procedures to screen and inform adult entertainers and meet with a Dutch consular officer to ensure the applicant knows his/her rights and are fully informed of the work agreement before picking up their in-flight letter at the Dutch Embassy in Colombia. Upon arrival, such visa recipients undergo medical check-ups and receive information about their rights, risks, and resources. The government launched a new research project on the commercial sex industry with the Pan American Health Organization. There were no reports of child sex tourism occurring in Aruba or of Arubans participating in international sex tourism. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.