Aruba is a destination and source country for women and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Those at greatest risk continue to be foreign women in Aruba’s commercial sex trade and foreign men and women in the service and construction industries. Specific at-risk communities include Chinese men and women working in supermarkets, Indian men in the jewelry sector, and Caribbean and South American women in domestic service. A 2013 international organization report identified Aruba’s regulated and unregulated prostitution sectors, domestic workers, and small retail shops as the groups and sectors most susceptible to trafficking. Media reports published in 2011 indicated several Aruban women were allegedly subjected to debt bondage in the Netherlands. Regional experts report that Aruban women and girls studying in the Netherlands may be vulnerable to sex trafficking by residents of the Netherlands.
The Government of Aruba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government’s anti-trafficking taskforce, via its national coordinator, continued to demonstrate regional leadership in the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts and prevention activities; this task-force continued to distribute a list of trafficking indicators for officials to use in the proactive identification of trafficking victims. However, the work of the taskforce and national coordinator was undercut by the government’s overall decline in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2012; it did not initiate any new anti-trafficking investigations and has yet to successfully prosecute any sex or labor trafficking offenders.
Recommendations for Aruba: Aggressively investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; enhance capacity to protect victims of sex trafficking and forced labor by formalizing cooperation with anti-trafficking NGOs; formalize standard operating procedures for all front-line responders to replace the current ad hoc approach to identifying and referring trafficking victims; facilitate training to improve the ability of immigration officials, NGOs, health workers, labor inspectors, and other front-line responders to identify potential trafficking victims, including domestic workers, migrants in construction and retail shops, and women in the sex trade and on adult entertainment visas; ensure that weekly medical check-ups for foreign women in the regulated prostitution sector include screening for trafficking indicators; continue to consult with the Dutch government on how it proactively uncovers victims of trafficking; systematically provide information to all immigrant populations upon their arrival in Aruba to ensure they are familiar with their rights and where to go for help; provide the anti-trafficking committee with an independent budget, and establish the national coordinator as a full-time position to improve overall anti-trafficking response; and develop ways to educate clients of the sex trade about trafficking.
The Government of Aruba’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts declined during the reporting period. Aruba prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through Articles 203a and 286a of its criminal code which prescribe penalties ranging from four to 15 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not initiate any new trafficking investigations in 2012, compared with six labor trafficking investigations during the previous reporting period and seven in 2010. The government prosecution of a forced labor offender stemming from a 2010 case continued. Two other cases also remained pending. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking-related offenses. In an apparent conflict of interest, security for sex trade establishments was reportedly sometimes provided by off-duty police officers, which experts note could inhibit law enforcement’s willingness to investigate allegations of human trafficking in the sex trade. The government reported that adequate funding and staffing for police remained a problem. The government provided a venue for a human trafficking seminar titled “Why the fight against human trafficking matters” for police, justice, health, immigration, children’s services, victim assistance, and women’s affairs personnel in 2012. The seminar was funded by a foreign donor, as were most other anti-trafficking efforts. Aruba continued to incorporate human trafficking awareness into the police academy curriculum during the reporting period.
The Government of Aruba demonstrated limited progress in its victim identification and protection efforts in 2012. The government identified one potential trafficking victim during the reporting period; this is a decline from three identified trafficking victims in 2011 and 46 in 2010. Aruba’s anti-trafficking taskforce continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the 10 most common signs of human trafficking and requested that any potential trafficking cases be reported to the national coordinator. The government had agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations for sheltering adult victims. Although police and health department officials inspected bars in Aruba with regulated prostitution, these inspections did not include an assessment of trafficking indicators, nor were these checks conducted during prime hours of operation. Further, although labor inspectors reportedly inspected work sites where vulnerable migrants were present, they did not undertake screenings for trafficking indicators. According to a recent expert report, the government did not have a written formalized policy for the identification of trafficking victims or their referral for care. The government reported it encouraged trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders and did not charge victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. According to Aruban officials, the government has the authority to provide identified trafficking victims relief from immediate deportation and work permits for a maximum of six months; however, it granted no such relief to any trafficking victims in 2012. This is a decline from three labor trafficking victims provided with relief from deportation in the previous reporting period.
The government continued to proactively develop and implement anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in partnership with IOM in 2012. An expert report released during the year praised Aruba’s integrated task-force approach to address trafficking. During the year, this taskforce, led by the national coordinator, developed and drafted provisions for a temporary residency permit for trafficking victims in Aruba. The government continued to promote its human trafficking awareness campaign in four languages targeted to both victims and the general public and linked to a hotline with operators trained to assist trafficking victims. An October anti-trafficking campaign helped raise awareness about trafficking. The national coordinator gave several interviews on local radio and television to raise awareness about human trafficking and the hotline during the reporting period. The government did not have any awareness campaigns targeting potential clients of the sex trade in Aruba in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. There were no known reports of child sex tourism occurring in Aruba or of Arubans participating in international sex tourism.