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Jul 29, 2022

U.S. State Department Upgrades Belize’s Human Trafficking Efforts to Tier Two

The Government of Belize has been demonstrating overall increasing efforts in tackling human trafficking, compared to recent years. As a result, Belize was upgraded to tier two in the U.S. State Department’s Human Trafficking Report. The report cited key achievements in Belize’s efforts over the last year, including the conviction of two traffickers, and expanding the size of the Anti-Trafficking Police Unit. Recommendations were also made as to how Belize can improve its current efforts. News Five’s Paul Lopez was in San Ignacio today for the Ministry of Human Development’s Blue Heart Event. Here is that report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Belize was recently upgraded to tier two on the Human Trafficking Rank, according to the U.S. State Department’s Human Trafficking Report 2022. It is a significant milestone that was celebrated at today’s Blue Heart Event in San Ignacio.


Tanya Santos

Tanya Santos, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“The difference going from tier two watch list to tier to tier two, and the regulation is that you can only be on tier two for two consecutive years. And we got a bit of lee way because of the COVID19 pandemic. But, had we not been performing this year we would not have gotten to tier two.”


Human Trafficking is rampant in Belize. The US State Department’s trafficking reports finds that not enough is being done in Belize to investigate reports of trafficking, particularly reports of collusion between government officials and traffickers.


Tanya Santos

“The government did not adequately address official complicity in trafficking crimes, reporters of which remain common. The government did not adequately oversee labor recruitment or investigate allegations of trafficking, or did not take measures to reduce demand of commercial sex. Authorities reportedly did not consistently screened migrants, or asylum seekers for trafficking, and may have deported or arrested unidentified trafficking victims.”

The US State Department made eleven recommendations to Belize, including the implementation of an anti-trafficking law which would seek to vigorously investigate and prosecute human traffickers, including child sex tourists, and officials who are allegedly complicit with these crimes. The US State Department also recommends that the Government of Belize impose significant sentences upon those convicted.


Elvia Vega

Elvia Vega, Minister of State, Ministry of Human Development

“It is a great day today, we have gone from tier three watch list to tier two and so it is something very good for Belize. You mention about complicity in some cases and that is true and so there is work to be done. WE have to look at that specific area you mention and see how it can be improved. In everything there is always room for improvement.”


Paul Lopez

“Are we aware that we have officials who are acting complicit with these traffickers?”


Elvia Vega

“I am not aware of specific persons, but as I said, there is work to be done and we will look into it.”


Keron Gabourel

Keron Gabourel, Belizean Poet

“Feeding off the vulnerability of a society’s deficit, rising crime rates, a lack in jobs and opportunity, a rat race despite unfavorable odds. Promises present comfort to the ears of the desperate, whispers of great riches and a bright future from the tongues of recruits, boyfriends, to the ads online. Freedom comes at a cost, the price for replying. Dispatched and shipped like Amazon prime, same day delivery but something is not right.” 


The Ministry of Human Service and the Human Trafficking Institute signed an M.O.U. today to improve the level of service offered to human trafficking victims in Belize.


Chris Nick

Chris Nick, Country Coordinator, Human Trafficking Institute

“We are grateful that the Government of Belize has been innovative in their response to trafficking. I think that tier two ranking improvement is indicative of that. I think this M.O.U. to help to enhance the services will do that exactly that.  I think it is a symbol; the M.O.U. is a symbol that there are innovative and a desire to contend to improve the lives of victims and the lives of victims and to hold those responsible who are engaged in human trafficking. And again, we are really grateful for this partnership, to walk along side them for this number of years to fight trafficking.”


Oscar Requeña

Oscar Requeña, Minister of Rural Transformation.

“It should never be acceptable for mothers, fathers, aunts and family members to exploit boys and girls, the same people that are to protect them. Traffickers who gain the trust of people only to turn around and rob them of their future, to tell lies and give false promises of high paying jobs in great locations, exploiting the vulnerability of people like  me and you. Human trafficking does not include the kidnapping and chains as you may imagine portrayed by television. Human trafficking is where people are trapped because violence lies, and coercion is used to lure them into a life that they never imagine would be their lives.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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