SURINAME: Tier 3
Suriname is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. Reported cases of trafficking in Suriname’s remote jungle interior—which constitutes approximately 80 percent of the country—have increased in recent years; limited government presence in the interior renders the full scope of the problem unknown. Women and girls from Suriname, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Venezuela are subjected to sex trafficking in Suriname, including in remote and illegal gold mining camps in Suriname’s interior. During the reporting period, authorities discovered parents who subjected their daughters to sex trafficking, citing increasing poverty as the cause. Venezuela’s deteriorating economy may render Venezuelan women more vulnerable to sex trafficking in Suriname. Officials note a shift towards in-home brothels makes such establishments—and cases of possible sex trafficking—harder to detect. Migrant workers in agriculture and on fishing boats off Suriname’s coast are highly vulnerable to forced labor, as are children working in gold mines and informal urban sectors. Chinese associations—and allegedly some Hong Kong traffickers—recruit and subject Chinese immigrants to sex and labor trafficking in the mining, service, and construction sectors. Surinamese women in neighboring countries and territories engage in prostitution and may be vulnerable to sex trafficking. Traffickers from Suriname exploit victims in the Netherlands. Traffickers may transport victims through Suriname’s remote interior to bypass official checkpoints. There are reports of corruption and local official complicity in trafficking crimes that may impede anti-trafficking efforts. During the reporting period, the government began an investigation of Alien Affairs Department staff for selling residence permits to Hong Kong criminal networks that allegedly facilitated the networks’ fraudulent recruitment of Chinese workers to Suriname for forced labor.
The Government of Suriname does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Having been placed on Tier 2 Watch List in the preceding four years, Suriname is not making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards and is therefore placed on Tier 3. The government reconvened its anti-trafficking working group and continued efforts to raise awareness. It devoted more office space to the police anti-trafficking unit, which continued to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses. However, the government did not provide adequate staff or resources to the anti-trafficking police unit or convict any traffickers—a large decrease from 10 convictions the previous reporting period. For the third year, it failed to open a proposed government shelter for female and child trafficking victims, and it did not provide funding or support to the NGOs and police that it relied upon to provide the majority of victim care. The lack of long-term protection measures, including witness support and psychological counseling, caused some foreign victims to leave the country after providing statements to the authorities, which led to the dismissal of trafficking investigations and acquittals of alleged traffickers.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SURINAME:
Provide adequate long-term shelter to male and female trafficking victims of all ages, and open the proposed government shelter for female and child victims; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including officials complicit in human trafficking; continue to increase resources, especially additional staff, to the police anti-trafficking unit; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims, including forced labor victims in the interior; provide additional training to law enforcement, immigration, health care, labor, and judicial officials to better identify and protect victims; develop programs to support and facilitate victims’ participation in investigations against their traffickers; continue to develop and implement formal standard operating procedures for the referral of identified victims to care, and train officials to use such procedures; broaden labor inspectors’ mandates to include monitoring of informal sectors, including gold mining; provide reintegration support for trafficking victims, including long-term psychological counseling; increase training for social workers and victim shelter staff on proper victim care protocols; strengthen and sustain partnerships with NGOs to identify victims and provide protective services; provide sufficient funding and resources to the anti-trafficking working group for implementation of the national anti-trafficking strategy; and increase efforts to raise awareness of trafficking.
The government made inadequate law enforcement efforts. Suriname prohibits all forms of human trafficking through a 2006 criminal code amendment that prescribes penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Police reported seven investigations—six for sex trafficking and one for forced labor—involving 16 suspects, a decrease from 15 investigations—11 for sex trafficking and four for forced labor—in 2014. The prosecutor’s office initiated nine prosecutions—eight for sex trafficking and one for forced labor—and continued one forced labor prosecution from the previous year; all prosecutions remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. This is consistent with 10 prosecutions reported in 2014; however, the government did not convict any traffickers during the year, which is a significant decrease from 10 convictions in 2014. Prosecutions of five alleged sex traffickers initiated in 2015 were discontinued, in some cases because foreign victims had returned home before the defense could conduct interviews or for lack of sufficient evidence.
Police operated a specialized 13-person anti-trafficking unit charged with investigating cases; however, officials acknowledged the unit’s staff required additional training, and the staff was inadequate in number. While the government provided additional office space to the unit during the reporting period, it did not improve the capacity of its staff. Nonetheless, the unit provided training to other specialized police units on the links between trafficking and other crimes and began to develop a standard anti-trafficking training. Due to a lack of anti-trafficking training, some law enforcement and judicial officials conflated trafficking with human smuggling and may have prosecuted some smuggling offenses under human trafficking laws. Despite the government’s recognition that its officials needed specific anti-trafficking training, it did not provide such training for law enforcement or judicial officials. The government conducted an awareness session for law enforcement and police in March 2016. The government allocated insufficient resources for trafficking investigations in the country’s interior.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, it did launch an investigation into government corruption allegedly related to trafficking. During the reporting period, authorities discovered employees in the Alien Affairs Department sold residence permits to Hong Kong criminal networks that allegedly used the documents to fraudulently bring Chinese workers into Suriname for forced labor. While the employees involved were relieved of their duties in the Alien Affairs Department, some maintained employment in different departments or were relocated to other government ministries. The investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period, and authorities had yet to file formal charges. General government corruption and possible complicity continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts. Brothels are illegal in Suriname but many officials tolerate their operation, which hinders law enforcement’s ability to identify and investigate possible cases of trafficking. Surinamese police cooperated with the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period.
The government decreased its efforts to identify trafficking victims and continued to provide inadequate victim assistance. Police reported identifying 11 sex trafficking victims and one victim of forced labor—three Surinamese and nine foreigners—a decrease from 59 potential victims identified in 2014, including 42 forced labor victims. Suriname lacked specialized, long-term shelter for trafficking victims, and protective services for adults and children were inadequate. Police frequently took responsibility for providing basic, immediate services to victims—including food, clothing, and emergency medical care—and provided such services to victims identified during the reporting period. Police could refer adult victims to short-term, government-run shelters for victims of domestic abuse, and they referred approximately eight victims to such shelters during the reporting period. NGOs provided shelter and additional services to child trafficking victims; however, the shelter and services were not trafficking-specific. Due to the lack of victim shelters, police continued to place some child victims in juvenile detention facilities. In 2013, the Ministry of Social Affairs launched a process to open a government-run shelter for female and child trafficking victims; in 2015, authorities identified a potential building for the shelter but did not fund, staff, or open the shelter. The government did not report what funding—if any—it provided to NGO shelters or for victim assistance. Authorities employed some formal procedures to identify victims, though health care workers did not screen for trafficking indicators among persons in prostitution, and victim identification in the interior was limited. The government did not have a formal process to refer victims to care, but a sub-group of the anti-trafficking committee began drafting such procedures during the reporting period.
The government did not sponsor any programs to facilitate victims’ reintegration, such as a witness-protection program or long-term psychological counseling. Victims had the option of pursuing civil suits against their traffickers, but no such cases were reported. The government did not have a formal policy in place to encourage victims to participate in the investigations against their traffickers. As a result, some foreign victims left the country after providing statements to the authorities, which led to the dismissal of trafficking prosecutions and acquittals of alleged traffickers. The attorney general implemented a new procedure in January 2016 that allows for the judiciary to commence judicial investigations immediately after it receives a trafficking allegation so the defense may question victims earlier in the investigation; it is unclear if the government employed this procedure in any trafficking cases during the reporting period. The government had no specialized mechanism to provide foreign victims with alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced hardship or retribution. After a trafficking court case concluded, foreign victims could apply for the same work or residence permits available to other foreign citizens; however, no victims did so during the year. There were no reports of victims penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government maintained modest prevention efforts. The anti-trafficking working group reconvened in January 2016 after having been inactive since December 2014; the reconstituted group included representatives from six government agencies and focused on awareness-raising programs, interagency coordination on anti-trafficking efforts, and developing protocols for victim care. The working group made minimal progress towards implementing the 2014 national anti-trafficking strategy; it did create an anti-trafficking awareness campaign and informational materials for press, radio, television, and social media. The police anti-trafficking unit continued to raise awareness of trafficking through radio programs to sensitize the general public and newspaper ads that warned workers of fraudulent recruitment and youth about the risk of traffickers using social media. The police anti-trafficking unit and the youth police continued to work with an NGO to run a child and youth hotline. While the hotline did not receive any reports of trafficking during the reporting period, the police units provided anti-trafficking training to hotline staff and operators. Labor inspectors trained to identify trafficking victims were limited by law to inspecting formal workplaces, which rendered much of Suriname’s workforce—employed in informal sectors—invisible to such inspections. Police reports indicate labor inspectors did not inspect formal workplaces where workers were at an increased risk of trafficking, such as fisheries, even when authorities noted specific cases of potential trafficking in those sectors. Although many Surinamese businesses hire foreign laborers, the government did not have formal procedures to oversee or regulate foreign recruitment agencies. The government made no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The police anti-trafficking unit provided anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel and other staff within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.