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—especially from Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia, and Venezuela—who arrive voluntarily to work as domestic employees and laborers, but may be recruited or deceived by traffickers who lure victims with fraudulent recruitment practices, such as false promises of employment through advertisements in foreign newspapers. Also vulnerable are children born in The Bahamas to foreign-born parents who do not automatically receive Bahamian citizenship and individuals in prostitution and exotic dancing. Traffickers confiscate victims’ passports and restrict their movements.
The Government of The Bahamas fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued strong collaboration across multiple government agencies, resulting in prosecutions of traffickers and protection of victims. The government arrested and prosecuted five alleged traffickers during the reporting period, sent letters to employees with work permits explaining the definition of trafficking and advising employers of the prohibition against document retention, tasked labor inspectors to screen for trafficking indicators when inspecting labor sites, and developed a referral process for immigration officers to screen for trafficking indicators. The government faced challenges in identifying victims, but continued efforts to implement its victim identification and referral protocol and provided training on trafficking in persons for 157 government officials responsible for identifying and assisting trafficking victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE BAHAMAS:
Increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and appropriately punish traffickers; implement the victim identification and referral protocol to identify victims of sex and labor trafficking, especially among vulnerable groups; continue to provide all identified victims with adequate protection and assistance; use independent interpreters when conducting inspections of migrant worker labor sites, and continue to interview workers privately; increase grassroots outreach with potential trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, in partnerships with NGOs; finalize policies and procedures for data collection, victim care, research, and case management; strengthen engagement with officials involved in anti-trafficking activities in other countries in the region; and continue to implement a nationwide public awareness campaign to educate the public and officials about human trafficking and its manifestations in The Bahamas, including the distinction between trafficking and smuggling.
The government sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention and Suppression) Act 2008 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and 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. Authorities initiated three new human trafficking prosecutions of five alleged traffickers and continued prosecutions against three alleged traffickers during the reporting period, but did not obtain convictions. It initiated 12 new labor and sex trafficking investigations involving 53 potential victims from The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries, South and Central America, and Asia, compared with 13 new investigations involving 50 potential victims in 2014. Officials screened 49 of the individuals for possible trafficking indicators during these investigations, and confirmed three through in-person interviews. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. In January 2016, the Court of Appeal ruled trafficking cases cannot be tried in the Supreme Court absent an amendment to Bahamian criminal procedure, quashing the Supreme Court’s 2014 sentence of one convicted perpetrator of trafficking crimes to 15 years’ imprisonment for trafficking in persons and seven years’ imprisonment for withholding the victim’s documents. The government appealed the Court of Appeal ruling to the Privy Council in London; meanwhile, it continued to prosecute cases in the Magistrates’ Courts. Government officials funded and delivered training to 157 police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and other officials on the Bahamian anti-trafficking law, trafficking indicators, victim referral and assistance, and trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The government cooperated with the United States to investigate a potential forced labor case, and with Costa Rica to investigate a potential trafficking case. Bahamian officials also worked with Colombian authorities to facilitate a Colombian victim’s testimony in a case before the Bahamian courts.
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. During the reporting period, the government screened 49 potential trafficking victims—41 adult females and seven adult males—and one potential child victim. Authorities identified three sex trafficking victims—all foreign nationals, one child and two adults—and referred them for appropriate care and assistance, including housing and medical, psychological, legal, immigration, and reintegration assistance. The government reported spending approximately 42,000 Bahamian dollars ($42,000) on trafficking victims’ care, including subsidies to three NGOs. The government granted three foreign victims relief from deportation; two victims were ultimately repatriated with Bahamian government assistance to their home countries and one victim remained in the country and continued to receive deportation relief. Authorities initially provided a work permit to one of the adult victims who later requested repatriation. Authorities encouraged trafficking victims to assist in prosecutions by providing lodging, food, a stipend, clothing and other basic necessities, accompaniment to court proceedings, and witness protection, as needed. For the first time, the justice system allowed the statements of five sex trafficking victims who had been repatriated to their country of origin to be admitted as evidence pursuant to a 2014 amendment to criminal procedure and evidence laws. In addition, the Criminal Procedure Code allowed trafficking victims to submit statements to the court to inform judges of the harm inflicted by their traffickers prior to sentencing of convicted traffickers.
The 2008 anti-trafficking act provides victims with immunity from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, which the government effectively implemented for the three confirmed trafficking victims during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking act also authorizes the court to order convicted defendants to pay restitution to victims, however, such restitution was not ordered in 2015. In response to previous concerns about the small number of foreign trafficking victims formally identified among those foreign nationals detained at the migrant detention center, the government developed a process for law enforcement officers to screen for trafficking indicators and refer potential victims to service providers for assistance, including legal and interpretation assistance, as well as appropriate immigration relief.
The government increased prevention efforts, taking 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. In addition, the minister of national security met with members of the diplomatic and honorary consul corps to inform them about government efforts to combat trafficking and resources available for potential victims. The government continued to conduct a nationwide public awareness campaign to educate students about human trafficking, disseminated 2,700 anti-trafficking pamphlets to inform potential victims of their rights and available resources, conducted outreach in vulnerable communities to inform people about trafficking, and continued to air public service announcements on television and radio throughout the country. The government partnered with NGOs to implement its 2014-2018 national anti-trafficking strategy and detailed action plan that outlines efforts related to government infrastructure, prevention, victim and witness protection, investigation and prosecution, and partnerships. NGOs reported the government actively solicited their participation and feedback, including in outreach to vulnerable communities.
The government did not have standard operating procedures for data collection and victim care or terms of reference for research, and case management. Authorities developed and disseminated anti-trafficking pamphlets, which included checklists of warning signs that may indicate a person is being subjected to trafficking and a telephone number to call for help. The government sent letters to employees with work permits explaining the definition of trafficking and advising employers of the prohibition against document retention, and it published a notice advising job seekers on avoiding potential fraud in the cruise ship industry. Labor inspectors screened for indicators of trafficking when inspecting work sites. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, including a rotation in legal affairs and written material. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs distributed trafficking awareness-raising materials in consular reception areas. The government conducted awareness efforts targeted at potential clients of the sex trade or potential victims of forced labor; it closed some sex trade establishments, conducted random inspections of businesses and conducted operations in strip clubs and bars to identify and hold accountable owners of such establishments. Authorities did not consider child sex tourism to be a problem in The Bahamas and reported no child sex tourism investigations, although it did train tourism officials and placed anti-trafficking pamphlets in tourism information booths.