SEYCHELLES: Tier 2 Watch List
Seychelles is a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to labor and sex trafficking, respectively. Seychellois girls and, according to some sources, boys are subjected to child sex trafficking—particularly on the main island of Mahe—by peers, family members, and pimps for exploitation in nightclubs, bars, guest houses, hotels, brothels, private homes, and on the street. Young drug addicts are also vulnerable to being forced into prostitution. Eastern European women have been subjected to forced prostitution in hotels. Migrant workers—including those from China, Kenya, Madagascar, and various countries in South Asia—make up 20 percent of the working population in Seychelles and are primarily employed in fishing and construction. Some migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in the construction sector. NGOs report migrant workers face exploitative conditions in fish processing plants, and fishermen aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in Seychelles’ territorial waters and ports are subjected to abuses indicative of forced labor, including non-payment of wages and physical abuse.
The Government of Seychelles does not fully meet 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, Seychelles is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. During the reporting period, the government finalized a victim assistance tool, which includes standard operating procedures for victim protection outlining the roles of government actors in the identification and protection of trafficking victims, including a formal referral mechanism and trained law enforcement officers and immigration and customs officials on these mechanisms. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of traffickers and did not formally identify any trafficking victims. The national anti-trafficking committee met four times during the reporting period; however, despite its strong leadership, implementation of the 2014-2015 national anti-trafficking plan was slow and many activities remained in early planning stages for the second consecutive year. The government does not acknowledge the existence of internal trafficking, which impeded the investigation of such crimes and assistance available for Seychellois victims. Lack of oversight and inspection of potential labor trafficking victims within the Seychelles International Trade Zone (SITZ) created vulnerability amongst the large migrant labor population in Seychelles. The government deports migrant workers working for state-owned or private companies for participating in strikes to protest poor employment conditions without conducting comprehensive investigations and screenings to identify if the individuals are victims of forced labor. Despite complaints by migrant workers, primarily in the construction sector, about poor working conditions, non-payment of salaries, and retention of passports, the government has never formally identified a case of forced labor in the country.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SEYCHELLES:
Use the anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers; amend the penal code to harmonize its contradictory sections addressing sexual offenses to ensure the prohibition and penalization of the forced prostitution of adults is commensurate with rape; provide specialized training to government officials—including members of the national committee on human trafficking, law enforcement officials, social workers, immigration officials, and labor inspectors—on how to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to appropriate services; implement the national action plan to combat human trafficking and dedicate appropriate resources for its implementation; criminalize the confiscation and retention of passports by employers of migrant workers; remove the required fee for a migrant worker to lodge a complaint with the labor tribunal; prosecute traffickers under the anti-trafficking law rather than arbitrating labor disputes that may involve trafficking offenses; provide adequate resources to labor inspectors to conduct regular, comprehensive inspections of migrant workers’ work sites and inform the workers of their employment rights; create a standardized contract governing the employment of domestic workers within private homes; implement labor laws equally in all of Seychelles, including the international trade zone; and conduct anti-trafficking awareness campaigns to increase the understanding of the crime among the local population and the large number of foreign tourists and migrant workers entering the country.
The government demonstrated limited law enforcement efforts. The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014 prohibits all forms of trafficking in adults and children. The law prescribes penalties of a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment, and in cases involving children or aggravating circumstances, a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent. The penalties for child trafficking are commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape, but the penalties for adult sex trafficking are not. Elements of human trafficking are also prohibited under a variety of penal code statutes, including section 259 prohibiting slavery and section 251 prohibiting forced labor; the government prosecutes some human trafficking cases under these provisions. Although all forms of child sex trafficking are prohibited under the anti-trafficking law, enforcement of this prohibition may be hampered by unclear and conflicting statutes in the penal code that do not clearly define the ages of consent and legal majority, creating confusion between the traditionally understood age of consent (15 years of age) and the legal age of majority (18 years of age).
As in the previous reporting period, the government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers during the reporting period. Law enforcement officials identified two potential trafficking cases; however, it did not launch any investigations into these cases or formally identify any victims. One case involved two Indian migrant workers who gave official statements detailing abuse by their employer. The company bought them tickets to return to India, they left Seychelles, and authorities did not inquire further. In another case in October 2015, two Indian migrant workers claimed their employer took their passports because they owed her money; they chose not to press charges and one of the workers returned to India and the other remained in Seychelles working with a different employer. The Ministry of Labor Resources and Development (MOL) viewed cases of labor trafficking as a breach of contract between the employer and employee and preferred arbitration through the labor tribunal rather than prosecution, which impeded prosecution. Law enforcement officials lacked sufficient training to investigate trafficking cases effectively, and the government did not provide or support efforts to train officials on such methods. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government demonstrated minimal efforts to identify and protect victims, although it began to institute mechanisms to improve such efforts. It did not identify or provide protective services to any trafficking victims. There are no shelters specifically for trafficking victims in the country; however, the government began to develop comprehensive protective services for certified trafficking victims and standard operating procedures for their provision. The government also established a fund to finance provision of these services. In May 2015, the national anti-trafficking committee launched a victim assistance tool, which includes standard operating procedures on victim identification, protection, and a referral mechanism. The government, in collaboration with international donors, trained law enforcement, immigration, and customs officials on these mechanisms; however, front-line officers remained inadequately trained to identify and refer potential human trafficking cases. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; however, migrant workers who strike are considered to be in breach of their work contracts and can be deported at the will of their employers. Several migrant workers who gathered to protest a variety of abuses relating to their employment were deported during the reporting period; these deportations took place without conducting comprehensive investigations or screenings to identify if the individuals were victims of forced labor.
The government maintained inadequate prevention efforts. The national anti-trafficking committee served as a coordinating body for collaboration and communication on trafficking matters; the committee met four times during the reporting period but did not receive a dedicated budget and relied on ad hoc funding from various government agencies. The implementation of the 2014-2015 national action plan was slow and many activities remained in early planning stages for the second consecutive year. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period. However, MOL provided leaflets in Chinese and Hindi to migrant workers arriving in the Seychelles detailing their rights and worked with local embassies to provide translation services as needed.
Numerous trafficking vulnerabilities in labor recruitment and monitoring persisted throughout the country during the reporting period. Migrant workers signed their employment contracts upon arrival in Seychelles, which increased their vulnerability to fraudulent recruitment tactics. There were reports of employers routinely retaining migrant workers’ passports to prevent them from changing jobs prior to the expiration of their two-year contract. Seizure and retention of passports is not illegal under Seychellois law; however, the anti-trafficking committee has proposed amending the anti-trafficking law to criminalize this. MOL employed 12 labor inspectors, an increase of one from the previous reporting period, responsible for conducting inspections of all workplaces in the country and one labor officer assigned to inform all migrant workers of their employment rights; government officials acknowledged this number was inadequate and inspectors lacked basic resources to perform their duties adequately. MOL is unable to conduct inspections in the SITZ, where many migrant laborers work, as it is considered ex-territorial and is managed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA); however, FSA did not provide adequate oversight of laborers working in the SITZ. Furthermore, as the Ministry of Health has authority over migrant worker dwellings, MOL could not inspect them or the residences where domestic workers reside. Despite complaints by migrant workers about poor working conditions, non-payment of salaries, and retention of passports, primarily in the construction sector, the government has never identified a case of forced labor in the country. The government made no discernible efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex or forced labor during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.