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Jul 28, 2015

Belize Downgraded on Human Trafficking Watchlist

Belize has been downgraded to Tier Three on the Human Trafficking watch-list, based on a stinging assessment by the U.S.  The report states that, “The Government of Belize does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Authorities did not initiate any new investigations or prosecutions in 2014. The government did not investigate or prosecute any public officials for alleged complicity in human trafficking-related offenses.” Today, News Five spoke to Judith Alpuche, C.E.O. in the Ministry of Human Development and Chair of the Belize Anti-Trafficking Committee. She told us that as far as they’re concerned, the report by the U.S. is incredible and certainly not reflective of the work done or the inroads made. The assessment is based on three areas – prosecution, prevention and protection, but she says that the reality is that the most focus is placed on prosecution, and convictions have not been easy to attain.

 

Judith Alpuche

On the Phone: Judith Alpuche, Chair, Belize Anti-Trafficking Committee

“In the past we have said…how can we be downgraded if we are doing work in the other areas? Yes we didn’t get prosecution, we didn’t get a conviction, but those are not easy to acquire. Convictions are the end result of the entire process, the entire investigative and prosecutorial and judicial process, and those do not happen overnight, but you know the report is really setting up a narrative to support the idea that we didn’t do anything. When you look at other areas, for instance under the same prevention, it says the government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. During 2014 indeed we did not focus on our diplomats because we had focused on them before. All our work was focusing on insuring that front line workers – the Police, social workers, health professionals, educational professionals, Immigration, Customs, were aware of the laws of the relatively new Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Act and all the new pieces that have come about with that legislation as well as the Commercial Sexual Exploitation Prohibition Act. So there was no talk of the three hundred plus people that we trained…the fact that we trained all these front-line professionals together so that they could coordinate better, so that they can see themselves as a unit in the district. We even invited the Americans to come and see the training to come and see what we were covering, but instead of seeing that it’s really cherry-picking. So it just seems to me that this is just an assessment that is geared toward downgrading us because we didn’t get any convictions and as I said convictions are difficult to get.”

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