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Jun 29, 2017

U.S. Frowns on Belize’s Human Trafficking Record

Four years ago, Belize ranked among the Tier Two nations in the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report. This year, we have been named as the worst trafficking offender in Central America, and comparable only to Haiti and Suriname in the Caribbean. The recently released report states bluntly, “The Government of Belize does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.” Worse, there are five references to, “Trafficking-related complicity by government officials, including those at high levels.” This leads the U.S. to conclude that government is not doing anything about the problem. The report notes that law enforcement did not begin any new trafficking prosecutions in 2016, and only identified six persons suspected of being involved in trafficking. The report calls the effort in prosecution inadequate. According to the report, “government did not investigate or prosecute any public officials for alleged complicity in human trafficking-related offenses, despite reports of a significant level of official complicity.” Naming Belize as a source, transit and destination for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, the report states that “Sex trafficking and forced labor of Belizean and foreign women and girls, primarily from Central America, occur in bars, nightclubs, brothels, and domestic service.”  The report goes on to say that the presence of off-duty police officers providing security for alleged sex trade establishments may inhibit victims from coming forward and police from investigating, especially against possible employers. The report suggests that women and girls arrested, jailed and deported for immigration violations may have included trafficking victims.  The U.S. is asking Belize to do more to identify victims of sex and labour trafficking and ensure avoiding re-victimization of such victims for any crimes they may commit as a direct result of trafficking.

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