Seychelles is a source country for Seychellois children subjected to sex trafficking, a destination country for foreign women subjected to sex trafficking, and a destination country for foreign men subjected to labor 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. Eastern European women have been subjected to forced prostitution in private homes. Migrant workers—including those from Bangladesh, China, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka—make up 20 percent of the population in Seychelles and are primarily employed in the fishing and construction sectors. During the reporting period, migrant workers were subjected to forced labor in the construction sector. NGO reports also indicated migrant workers face exploitative conditions in fish processing plants and fishermen aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in Seychelles’ territorial waters and ports are subjected to abuses indicative of forced labor, including but not limited to nonpayment of wages and physical abuse. In 2013, nine Pakistani fishermen, who had been denied payment of wages for approximately one years’ work, were found stranded in a Seychelles port.
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. During the reporting period, national committee on human trafficking developed drafts of anti-trafficking legislation and a national action plan to combat human trafficking; the legislation was adopted by the National Assembly in April 2014. However, the government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenders. It also did not identify any victims of trafficking, despite several reports of forced labor of migrant workers and at least one report of child prostitution. The government deported migrant workers for participating in strikes to protest their poor employment conditions without conducting comprehensive investigations and screenings to identify if the individuals were victims of forced labor.
Recommendations for Seychelles:
Use the newly adopted anti-trafficking legislation to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; 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; provide specialized training to government officials—including members of the national committee on human trafficking, law enforcement officials, social workers, and labor inspectors—on how to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to appropriate services; implement the national action plan to combat human trafficking and dedicate appropriate resources towards its implementation; provide adequate resources to labor inspectors to conduct regular and comprehensive inspections of migrant workers’ work sites and inform the migrant workers of their employments rights; institute a standardized contract governing the employment of domestic workers within private homes; and launch awareness campaigns on trafficking to increase the understanding of the crime among the local population, as well as among the large number of foreign tourists and migrant workers entering the country.
The government demonstrated limited law enforcement efforts. In April 2014, the National Assembly passed an anti-trafficking law, the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014, which prohibits all forms of trafficking in adults and children. The law prescribed penalties of a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment, and in cases involving children or aggravating circumstances, a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent. The penalties for child trafficking are commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape, but the penalties for adult sex trafficking are not. Elements of human trafficking are also prohibited under a variety of other statutes, including Section 259 of the penal code prohibiting slavery and Section 251 of the penal code prohibiting forced labor; the government prosecutes some human trafficking cases under these laws. Although all forms of child prostitution are prohibited under the anti-trafficking law, enforcement of laws relating to the prostitution of children may be hampered by unclear and conflicting statutes in other areas of the penal code 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 prosecute any trafficking cases or convict any trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The government investigated a case involving a young Seychellois girl who was allegedly subjected to prostitution by a Seychellois woman; however, law enforcement officials did not classify this case as trafficking, and the government declined to prosecute the case. Government officials continue to lack understanding of what constitutes human trafficking; despite this, the government did not provide law enforcement officials training on how to identify victims or investigate trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government demonstrated negligible efforts to identify and protect victims. It did not identify or provide protective services to any trafficking victims. There are no shelters or protective services specifically for trafficking victims in Seychelles. The Department of Social Affairs (DSA) provided counseling to women in prostitution, some of whom may have been victims of forced prostitution. The government did not offer legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face hardship or retribution. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked; however, the lack of formal identification procedures likely resulted in some victims remaining unidentified in the law enforcement system. Additionally, migrant workers who strike are considered to be in breach of their work contracts and can be deported at the will of their employers. Several migrant workers who gathered to protest a variety of abuses relating to their employment were deported during the reporting period; these deportations took place without conducting comprehensive investigations or screenings to identify if the individuals were victims of forced labor.
The government slightly increased prevention efforts. The National Committee on Trafficking in Persons served as a coordinating body for collaboration and communication on trafficking matters; the committee met regularly during the reporting period, but did not receive a dedicated budget and relied on ad hoc funding from various government agencies. The committee, in consultation with international organizations and NGOs, drafted a national action plan to combat trafficking. The government did not report conducting any national awareness campaigns on human trafficking, but Department of Social Affairs’ social workers distributed informational pamphlets on the issue of trafficking during community outreach programs. The Ministry of Labor and Human Resource Development (MOL) acknowledged that the domestic workers industry is poorly regulated in Seychelles and instituted a temporary ban on approving most new applications for foreign domestic workers until research could be conducted to determine how many domestic workers are in the country. The MOL employs six labor inspectors who are responsible for conducting inspections of all workplaces in the country and one labor officer assigned to inform all migrant workers of their employment rights; government officials acknowledged that this number of employees was inadequate and that inspectors lacked basic resources to perform their duties adequately. Despite several complaints by migrant workers, primarily in the construction sector, regarding poor working conditions, non-payment of salaries, and retention of passports, the government has never identified a case of forced labor in the country. The government made no discernible efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period.