Seychelles is a source country for Seychellois children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination country for foreign women subjected to sex trafficking. Seychellois girls and, according to some sources, boys are induced into prostitution—particularly on the main island of Mahe—by peers, family members, and pimps for exploitation in nightclubs, bars, guest houses, hotels, brothels, private homes, and on the street. Young drug addicts are also vulnerable to being forced into prostitution. Foreign tourists, sailors, and migrant workers contribute to the demand for commercial sex in Seychelles. During the reporting period, five Ukrainian women were recruited to Seychelles with promises of modeling jobs and subsequently subjected to forced prostitution in a private home; these women were later sent back to Ukraine by their traffickers, and allegedly replaced with other women. Some Indian, Bangladeshi, and Chinese migrant workers reportedly have experienced poor working conditions, including underpayment and late payment of wages and substandard housing – possible indicators of forced labor. In February 2013, as a result of increased complaints from Malagasy domestic workers regarding their treatment in the Seychelles, the de facto Government of Madagascar instituted a ban on sending additional Malagasy citizens to the Seychelles for such work.
The Government of Seychelles does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, Seychelles is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. During the reporting period, the government failed to report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking offenses. It also failed to identify any victims of trafficking, and sentenced two child sex trafficking victims to time in prison. Although the national anti-trafficking committee developed a proposal for training and capacity building, no discernible steps were taken towards its implementation. The government also failed to address the issue of forced labor among migrant workers, despite increasing reports of abuse.
Recommendations for Seychelles: Educate government officials and the general public about the nature of human trafficking; use existing legislation to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that clearly defines trafficking offenses and prescribes sufficiently stringent punishments; increase prescribed penalties for forced labor offenses in Section 251 of the Penal Code Act; amend the Penal Code to harmonize the duplicative and contradictory sections addressing sexual offenses crimes–particularly those related to the exploitation of children in prostitution – to ensure the prohibition of and sufficiently stringent punishment for the prostitution of all persons under 18 years of age and the forced prostitution of adults; empower the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee to facilitate communication and coordination among the relevant ministries, law enforcement entities, working groups, and NGOs by committing funds to the implementation of the committee’s anti-trafficking project proposal; institute a standardized contract governing the employment of domestic workers within private homes; and launch a campaign to educate foreign tourists and migrants entering the country about the illegality of purchasing sexual services in Seychelles and the penalties prescribed by local laws.
The government demonstrated limited law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Seychelles law does not specifically prohibit human trafficking, though penal and labor code statutes prohibit slavery, forced labor, pimping, and brothel keeping, under which trafficking offenders could be prosecuted. Section 251 of the Penal Code Act prohibits and prescribes a punishment of three years’ imprisonment for forced labor, a penalty which is not sufficiently stringent. Section 249 of the penal code outlaws slavery and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of 10 years’ imprisonment. Sections 155, 156, and 138 of the penal code outlaw brothel-keeping, pimping, and procuring women or girls to engage in prostitution within Seychelles or abroad, prescribing punishments of three years’, five years’, and two years’ imprisonment, respectively. None of these penalties are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape, for which the prescribed penalty under law is a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. Amendments to the Penal Code, enacted in October 2012, increased the mandatory sentence to 14 years’ imprisonment for sexual assault, acts of indecency, or sexual interference with children under the age of 15; this penalty is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Enforcement of laws relating to the prostitution of children continued to be hampered by unclear and conflicting statutes that fail to clearly define the ages of consent and legal majority, creating confusion between the traditionally understood age of consent of age 15 and the legal age of majority of age 18.
The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any trafficking in persons cases during the year, although the police did receive complaints relating to prostitution; it is unclear whether such complaints involved the alleged prostitution of children or whether the police pursued any related investigations. In the prior reporting period, a case was prosecuted that did not differentiate between the three traffickers who operated a brothel and two children in the brothel—all five individuals were convicted of prostitution-related offenses in March 2012 and were sentenced to and served six months’ imprisonment during the reporting period. The government has never used provisions contained in the penal code or the Employment Act of 1990 to criminally punish violations of workers’ rights, but instead reportedly settles disputes arising from allegations of such violations through mediation at the Employment Tribunal, thereby avoiding prosecution; information regarding cases handled by this tribunal was not available. Although the government acknowledged the need for specialized training of government officials in recognizing, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking offenses during the reporting period, it did not provide any such training. It did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the year.
The government did not demonstrate adequate protection efforts during the reporting period and it punished victims for crimes they committed as a result of being trafficked. It did not identify or provide protective services to any trafficking victims; however, the Department of Social Affairs provided counseling to women in prostitution, some of whom may have been victims of forced prostitution. The government provided an unknown amount of funding to NGOs that care for victims of labor exploitation and prostitution; it is unclear how many victims, if any, were provided such services. Seychelles lacks a formal referral process to transfer trafficking victims systematically to service providers for care. The government did not provide any assistance to Ukrainian victims of forced prostitution and, despite media reports concerning similar cases, the government continued to deny that such exploitation occurs in Seychelles. Reports indicate that police arrested and detained females in prostitution, some of whom may have been children, without providing social or medical services; these women and children were typically released the following day without charge. No social services were provided to the two girls who were prosecuted with their traffickers last year. Rather, the government sentenced them to six months’ imprisonment in 2012.
The government decreased its prevention efforts during the reporting period. Its National Anti-trafficking Committee, which is officially comprised of representatives from the police, Ministry of Social Affairs, the Attorney General Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry for Home Affairs’ Immigration Division, served as a coordinating body for collaboration and communication on trafficking matters; the committee met during the reporting period and developed a training and capacity building project proposal that outlines the government’s anti-trafficking goals and identifies resources needed to implement these goals. Although the development of this document is a demonstration of increased coordination, the government committed no resources to its implementation. The government did not report conducting any national awareness campaigns during the year, but did conduct limited awareness raising activities targeting youth and highlighting the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation. The Employment Department of the Ministry of Employment and Human Resource Development attested to the contracts of foreign workers migrating to Seychelles and the Immigration Division approved applications for work permits. These entities jointly maintained an automated system to monitor the immigration and employment status of migrants working within the country. The Ministry of Employment’s Expatriate Employment Section maintained data on migrant workers and visited workplaces together with the Labour Monitoring and Compliance Section; these entities have never identified a case of forced labor, although cases of exploitation of Malagasy domestic workers were alleged during the year. The government made no discernible efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex during the reporting period.