GUYANA: Tier 1
The Government of Guyana fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore, Guyana was upgraded to Tier 1. The achievements included approving the 2017-2018 national action plan for combating trafficking in persons; increasing the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions; and identifying and assisting more victims for the second year in a row. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not increase protection and services for victims outside the capital or provide adequate protection and shelter for child and male victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GUYANA
Fund specialized victim services, including those offered by NGOs, including for child victims and adult male victims; vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases and hold convicted traffickers, including complicit public officials, accountable by imposing sufficiently stringent sentences; train law enforcement, judiciary officials, and front-line responders—especially those working outside the capital—on victim identification and referral procedures; finalize the written identification procedures to better guide law enforcement officials; provide additional protection for victims to enable them to testify against traffickers in a way that minimizes re-traumatization; record the number of cases reported to the trafficking hotline to promote a rapid investigative and victim assistance response; and provide training for diplomatic personnel on human trafficking.
The government increased its law enforcement efforts. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties ranging from three years to life imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Ministry of Social Protection was the lead agency responsible for coordinating trafficking efforts and overseeing the Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU). In May, the ATU added three new officers responsible for planning and executing the unit’s site visits and victim-extraction exercises. The government’s inter-ministerial taskforce, which included representatives from several agencies and a specialized anti-trafficking NGO, coordinated a number of successful police operations. In 2016, the government reported 19 trafficking investigations, 19 prosecutions, and two convictions; compared to 15 trafficking investigations, seven prosecutions, and one conviction in 2015, and seven investigations, four prosecutions, and one conviction in 2014. The court sentenced one convicted trafficker to three years imprisonment and required a restitution payment to the victim; it required the second trafficker only to pay restitution, a penalty inconsistent with the law and one that the anti-trafficking taskforce appealed. The appeal remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Authorities confirmed that the police officer who was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015 was terminated from his position in the police force; however, his case’s appeal was still pending at the end of the reporting period. An international organization provided three training sessions for government officials on investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses. The government did not provide in-kind support for these trainings.
The government increased victim identification efforts, but victim assistance remained insufficient, especially in areas outside the capital and for male victims. The ATU, in coordination with the Guyana police force, developed identification procedures that field officers used informally during the reporting period pending their formal review and approval from the taskforce. The government reported identifying 98 trafficking victims in 2016 (80 for sex trafficking and 18 for labor trafficking), compared with 56 in 2015. An NGO reported the government referred 40 victims to shelter and psycho-social services in 2016, compared with 17 victims in 2015. The government signed a MOU with an anti-trafficking NGO during the previous reporting period commiting public funding to the NGO-run shelter for the provision of enhanced psycho-social services to adult female trafficking victims referred by the government. Despite this commitment, the government did not fund this shelter during this reporting period. The government provided 13 million GYD ($63,415) to another NGO that provided housing and counseling services to victims of gender-based violence, including an unknown number of trafficking victims. There were no adequate public or private shelters for male or child trafficking victims, despite the government’s commitment, made in early 2016, to open and partially fund a shelter for male victims. Child trafficking victims were placed in non-specialized shelters, and child victims identified in rural areas were placed in holding cells overnight without food before being transferred to the capital for shelter. Male victims were offered voluntary placement in homeless shelters.
The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. Guyanese law protects victims’ identities from being released to the media; however, NGOs reported open court trials re-traumatized victims and exposed their identity to members of the public. Victims were allowed to leave shelters during their stay; however, they were strongly encouraged to stay in shelters until trials concluded or be chaperoned. NGOs provided protection and counseling for victims during their stay. Guyanese law protects victims from punishment for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking and provides foreign victims with relief from deportation. The government granted one victim of trafficking temporary residence and legal employment in Guyana. The government did not report whether it facilitated or funded the repatriation of Guyanese nationals victimized abroad; however, it offered shelter, medical care, and psycho-social assistance to victims upon their return. In July, with funding from a foreign government and an international organization, 105 officials and some NGO representatives received victim identification and protection training over a six-day period. In December, the government-funded training for 37 officials on victim identification and assistance.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The anti-trafficking inter-ministerial taskforce remained active and met monthly. During the reporting period, the government finalized, released, and began implementing the 2017-2018 anti-trafficking national plan of action. In February, the First Lady of Guyana organized a two-day meeting with other Caribbean countries to discuss gender-based violence, including trafficking. The government conducted a variety of awareness-raising activities, including a flash-mob targeting school children to educate on human trafficking and how to report suspicious activities. Authorities participated in various events surrounding the annual Gold Miners Week including facilitating several anti-trafficking awareness sessions focused on the mining and logging sectors outside the capital. The government operated a trafficking hotline but did not report how many calls it received. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. During the reporting period, authorities conducted approximately 1,000 impromptu labor inspections in the capital and the interior. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the last five years, Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and children from Guyana, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Venezuela are subjected to sex trafficking in mining communities in the interior and urban areas. Victims are subjected to forced labor in the mining, agriculture, and forestry sectors, as well as in domestic service and shops. While both sex trafficking and forced labor occur in interior mining communities, limited government presence in the country’s interior renders the full extent of trafficking unknown. Children are particularly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking. Guyanese nationals are subjected to sex and labor trafficking in Jamaica, Suriname, and other Caribbean countries. Some police officers are complicit in trafficking crimes, and corruption impedes anti-trafficking efforts.