US State Department urges Guyana to increase prosecutions of trafficking in persons cases

US State Department urges Guyana to increase prosecutions of trafficking in persons cases

In its latest report on Trafficking in Persons, the US State Department has indicated that Guyana has met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons. However, the report also noted that there is significant room for improvement.

The report has listed 12 prioritized recommendations that Guyana should take on board to aid in the fight against trafficking in persons.

Among them is the need for increased prosecutions and convictions in sex and labour trafficking cases.

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, Guyana remained on Tier 1,” the US State Department said in the report.

It was pointed that during the reporting period, which covered 2022, three traffickers were convicted while a number of victims were identified and placed in shelters, even as they were provided with other required services.

It said other efforts included raising awareness in Indigenous languages, expanding the inclusivity of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons and the initiation of a programme to screen children in situations of homelessness.

However, the US Department of State bemoaned the need for in-depth investigations and increased prosecutions.

“Although the government meets the minimum standards, it neither increased investigations and prosecutions nor formally approved the NAP. The government also did not adequately oversee recruitment agencies or adequately screen for trafficking victims in the interior of the country,” the US State Department said.

According to the report, the Government initiated investigations into 28 cases involving 25 suspects, compared to 38 cases involving 57 suspects in 2021 and 31 cases in 2020.

Several cases were related to sex trafficking, while the remainder involved labour trafficking.

“The government did not report continuing any investigations from previous reporting periods. The government initiated prosecutions of four alleged traffickers, one female for sex trafficking and one female for labor trafficking under the anti-trafficking act and two suspected traffickers under other laws, compared with initiating prosecutions of three suspected traffickers (one for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) in 2021 and one prosecution for sex trafficking in 2020,” the US found.

Against that background, it recommended increase prosecutions and convictions in sex and labour trafficking cases and the need for them to be pursued to the fullest extent possible under the Combating Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005, including do cases involving child victims.

“Hold convicted traffickers, including complicit officials, accountable by seeking adequate penalties involving significant prison terms,” the State Department told the Guyanese Government, while also lobbying for the enforcement of restitution judgments.

The US State Department is also calling for there to be an increase in the number of Spanish-speaking officials supporting anti-trafficking efforts in the country.

Another recommendation calls for a complete review of the existing legislation on labour recruitment and for there to be an increase in the number of labour inspectors in the country.

 Notwithstanding the shortcomings, the US Department of State said the Government increased its protection efforts. In 2022, 326 trafficking victims were rescued compared to 216 victims in 2021.

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