Curacao* is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Police arrested a suspected Colombian trafficker in Curacao in April 2013; authorities indicated the suspect used debt bondage, withheld sex trafficking victims’ personal documents, held them against their will, and subjected them to physical and psychological abuse in public establishments in Curacao. It is unclear how the recruitment process works for Curacao’s walled, legal brothel that offers “24/7 access to more than 120” foreign women in prostitution. Local authorities believe that migrant workers have been subjected to forced domestic service and forced labor in construction, landscaping, and retail. Some migrants in restaurants and local businesses are vulnerable to debt bondage. Officials reported undocumented Cuban nationals were vulnerable to trafficking in Curacao given their lack of travel documents and inability to work legally in the country. Authorities also reported Indian and Chinese nationals remained vulnerable to forced labor in the country. Foreign trafficking victims originate predominantly from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Asia. Organizations in Venezuela have also reported assisting trafficking victims who were exploited in Curacao. A 2013 UN Report on Curacao cited a UN Committee recommendation to strengthen its efforts to address child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
The Government of Curacao does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government initiated new trafficking investigations, continued to investigate a high-profile sex trafficking case involving a police officer, and established a multi-disciplinary anti-trafficking taskforce. However, it did not identify any trafficking victims nor convict any traffickers in 2013. The lack of standard operating procedures on victim identification for all front-line responders, including immigration officers and health workers, hindered the government’s ability to identify trafficking victims and increased the risk of victims’ inadvertent arrest and deportation.
Recommendations for Curacao:
Make a robust and transparent effort to identify and assist potential victims of sex trafficking and forced labor by implementing formal proactive victim protection measures to guide officials, including health workers, on how to identify victims and how to assist victims of forced labor and sex trafficking in the legal and illegal sex trade; vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including any government officials complicit in human trafficking; provide targeted training and resources to local officials to conduct outreach in migrant communities throughout the island to uncover potential trafficking victims; use a Spanish-speaking victim advocate trained in human trafficking indicators to assist in routine health inspections at the legal brothel to ensure the rights of women in the brothel are protected, and coordinate with law enforcement if signs of trafficking are present; continue to consult with the Dutch government on how it proactively identifies victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking; ensure adequate resources for the new anti-trafficking taskforce to carry out its work; and implement a multilingual public awareness campaign directed at potential victims, the general public, and potential clients of the sex trade.
The government sustained its anti-trafficking law enforcement response. Curacao prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through the November 2011 Article 2:239 of its criminal code, which prescribe penalties ranging from nine to 24 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the year, the government initiated three new sex trafficking investigations. It continued its investigation of four alleged trafficking offenders, including a police officer, after their arrest in January 2013 for subjecting foreign women to sex trafficking in a club. In March 2014, officials investigating the case traveled to the Dominican Republic to gather evidence and interview witnesses. All suspects in this case, including the club owner, were released from pre-trial detention in May 2013; the club was immediately closed and prosecution of the alleged offenders is scheduled for May 2014. The government has yet to convict a trafficking offender.
In April 2013, Curacao police cooperated with Colombian authorities to arrest and extradite to Colombia a Colombian trafficker subjecting women to forced prostitution in Curacao. The government did not report initiating trafficking investigations in response to two incidents from 2012; one included the death of a foreign woman in prostitution within the brothel compound and the other involved a foreign woman missing from the compound. An ad placed in a local newspaper by brothel management indicated the missing woman would be deported upon discovery. During the year, the Minister of Social Development hosted a training session on labor exploitation for approximately 50 participants, including government officials and NGOs. The government incorporated anti-trafficking training into police academy curriculum during the reporting period. In October 2013, police officers provided anti-trafficking training to police from Curacao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba, and Suriname. Also in 2013, the Police Academy of Curacao conducted anti-trafficking workshop for 23 officials from the Curacao Security Services.
The Government of Curacao increased its capacity to identify trafficking victims through increased law enforcement training; however, it did not identify any new trafficking victims. This is a decrease from seven sex trafficking victims identified in 2012. The government’s Victim Assistance Bureau partnered with an NGO to provide victims with care and assistance, which included medical care and counseling. The government operated no shelters specifically for trafficking victims in the country. Although the government has identified some sex trafficking victims in bars and other public establishments, it has yet to identify any trafficking victims within Curacao’s walled, legal brothel. The government did not report whether health officials charged with regulating this brothel employed any measures to identify human trafficking victims or refer suspected victims for assistance.
The government reported it had a policy to provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face retribution or hardship, but did not report whether it provided any to trafficking victims in 2013. The government reported that it encouraged victims to cooperate in investigations of their traffickers but did not report granting temporary residency status to any foreign victims of trafficking during the year. The government did not report it had a policy to protect identified victims from being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The lack of standard operating procedures on victim identification for all front-line responders, including immigration officers, hindered the government’s ability to identify trafficking victims and increased the risk of their inadvertent arrest and deportation.
The government made limited progress in its efforts to prevent trafficking. It did not initiate any trafficking awareness campaigns to educate the public or officials about trafficking in 2013. However, in October 2013, the government formally established an anti-trafficking multi-disciplinary taskforce, chaired by a national trafficking coordinator; this group met regularly throughout the reporting period. During the year, the government initiated a study on crime in Curacao to include trends on human trafficking to help inform its anti-trafficking response. As part of Curacao’s memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Netherlands, Curacao continued its ongoing cross-training to exchange best practices with other anti-trafficking officials in the Kingdom. This training included victim identification training for 10 officials in November 2013. The government did not have any awareness campaigns specifically targeting the demand for forced labor, nor did it have a campaign aimed at potential clients of the sex trade in Curacao in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
* Curacao is a semi-autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Kingdom Charter divides responsibility among the co-equal parts of the Kingdom based on jurisdiction. For the purpose of this report, Curacao is not a “country” to which the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act apply. This narrative reflects how Curacao would be assessed if it were a separate, independent country.