Seychelles

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2

SEYCHELLES: Tier 2

The Government of Seychelles does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Seychelles was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by initiating its first investigation and prosecution under the anti-trafficking law, conducting more anti-trafficking trainings, identifying and assisting more trafficking victims, and allocating a budget for the national anti-trafficking committee. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not report implementation of its standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral mechanism. It did not report allocating specific funding for victims services, making any efforts to identify or assist internal or sex trafficking victims, or convicting any traffickers. The government did not inspect employers of, or screen for indicators of trafficking among, potential labor trafficking victims within the Seychelles International Trade Zone (SITZ) despite vulnerability to trafficking among migrant labor in the country.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SEYCHELLES

Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking, including internal and sex trafficking crimes, under the anti-trafficking law, and convict and punish traffickers; implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral; provide specialized training to government officials, including members of the national committee on human trafficking, law enforcement officials, social workers, immigration officials, and labor inspectors, on victim identification and referral procedures; enforce the law prohibiting the retention of passports by employers of migrant workers; provide adequate oversight of laborers working in the SITZ, and require labor inspectors to conduct regular and comprehensive inspections of migrant workers’ work sites; allocate adequate funding for victim services; draft a national action plan to drive national efforts to combat all forms of trafficking; remove the required fee for a migrant worker to lodge a complaint with the Labor Tribunal; screen for potential trafficking offenses among complaints before the Labor Tribunal; implement labor laws in all of Seychelles, including the international trade zone, and authorize officials to monitor domestic workers’ employment; and continue to conduct anti-trafficking awareness campaigns to increase the understanding of the crime among the local population and the large number of foreign tourists and migrant workers entering the country.

PROSECUTION

The government modestly increased efforts to combat labor trafficking, but did not initiate investigations of sex trafficking crimes. The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014 criminalizes all forms of trafficking in adults and children. The law prescribes penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment, and in cases involving children or aggravating circumstances, a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and a fine up to 800,000 Seychelles rupee ($60,519); these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Elements of human trafficking are also criminalized in provisions of the penal code, including section 259 prohibiting slavery and section 251 prohibiting forced labor. Although all forms of child sex trafficking are criminalized under the anti-trafficking law, enforcement of this prohibition may be hampered by unclear and conflicting statutes in the penal code that do not clearly define the ages of consent and legal majority, creating confusion between the traditionally understood age of consent (15 years of age) and the legal age of majority (18 years of age).

During the reporting period, the government investigated two potential cases of trafficking. The government initiated its first prosecution under the anti-trafficking law in a case involving alleged forced labor of four Bangladeshi victims; officials identified this case following an inspection of a construction company where officials found non-payment of wages and contractual misrepresentation. The national coordinating committee on trafficking in persons established a case conferencing group, which consisted of the relevant stakeholders to ensure a cohesive approach to the investigation and prosecution of the construction company. This contrasts with the Ministry of Labor resources and development’s past practice of treating potential cases of labor trafficking as contract disputes between employer and employee, and seeking arbitration through the labor tribunal rather than referring cases for criminal investigation. The government did not report efforts to investigate or prosecute sex trafficking. In April 2016, the Ministry of Community Development, Social Affairs and Sports, in conjunction with an international organization, conducted training for approximately 30 front-line law enforcement officers on trafficking and screening for potential indicators of human trafficking; however, many officers remained inadequately trained to identify and refer potential human trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.

PROTECTION

The government modestly increased efforts to identify and assist labor trafficking victims, but did not undertake any such efforts in relation to sex trafficking. The government identified and provided care to four Bangladeshi victims of forced labor and assisted 16 potential victims following their interception, an increase from zero identified during the previous reporting period. The government intercepted the 16 potential trafficking victims from Madagascar en route to Kuwait. After acquiring a translator, the government interviewed these potential victims and determined that it needed further information to formally identify them as trafficking victims. Nonetheless, it coordinated with the Government of Madagascar to repatriate all 16 potential victims. There are no shelters specifically for trafficking victims in the country; however, the social affairs department of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs provided the Bangladeshi victims with accommodations in a private guest house, per diem, access to a social worker and translator, and new work permits. The government provided the 16 Malagasy nationals with accommodations at a hotel until they were repatriated. The Bangladeshi victims reportedly participated in the investigation. The government did not report efforts to identify or assist sex trafficking victims. The law provides for witness protection, medical services, shelter, psychological support, legal advice, repatriation, social integration, and establishment of a fund to help pay for these expenses. The government did not report whether it allocated capital to the fund; however, it did fund assistance to victims. The government conducted training for social workers on how to implement the victim assistance tool, created in 2015, which established standard operating procedures on victim identification, protection, and referral; although, the government did not report implementation of the tool during the reporting period. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; however, because officials did not use standard victim identification procedures, victims likely remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. For example, migrant workers who strike have historically been considered to be in breach of their work contracts and could be deported at their employers’ request. There were no reports of such deportations during the reporting period.

PREVENTION

The government minimally increased prevention efforts. The national anti-trafficking committee served to foster coordination and communication on trafficking matters across government agencies and successfully drove national anti-trafficking efforts during the reporting period. It met every month and a half, received a dedicated budget, planned and delivered several trainings for officials, formed a case conferencing group to ensure the coordinated handling of the government’s first labor trafficking prosecution, organized the provision of assistance to trafficking victims, and coordinated public awareness efforts. Customs and immigration officials prevented 16 potential Malagasy trafficking victims from transiting the country by screening at the international airport. The government did not report progress in implementing the 2014-2015 national action plan or undertaking efforts to draft an updated plan. The government continued to run annual awareness campaigns in both broadcast and print media, and publicized World Day on Trafficking in Persons. The Ministry of Employment, Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation (MOE) continued to provide leaflets in Chinese and Hindi to migrant workers arriving in the Seychelles detailing their rights and worked with local embassies to provide translation services as needed. The government maintained a help line for reporting instances of trafficking, but the government did not report whether it received any calls.

Trafficking vulnerabilities in labor recruitment and monitoring persisted throughout the country during the reporting period. Seizure and retention of passports is illegal under Seychellois law; however, the government reported no efforts to enforce this law. The MOE employed 13 labor inspectors responsible for conducting inspections of all workplaces in the country and informing all migrant workers of their employment rights. The MOE lacked authority to conduct inspections in the SITZ, where many migrant laborers work, as it is considered ex-territorial and is managed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The FSA did not provide adequate oversight of laborers working in the SITZ, nor conduct any inspections during the reporting period. The MOE did not have authority to enter private homes to monitor employers of domestic workers, limiting the government’s ability to identify and investigate indicators of trafficking among this community. The Ministry of Health had authority to inspect migrant worker dwellings but did not have the mandate to investigate labor violations or potential trafficking crimes. The MOE reported an increase in the demand for expatriate domestic workers. The government made no discernible efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. The government funded anti-trafficking training for the Honorary Consuls of the Seychelles on victim identification abroad.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

Seychelles is a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to labor trafficking and sex trafficking and a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking. Seychellois girls and, according to some sources, boys are subject to child sex trafficking, particularly on the main island of Mahe; they are exploited by peers, family members, and pimps in nightclubs, bars, guest houses, hotels, brothels, private homes, and on the street. Young drug addicts are vulnerable to being forced into prostitution. Eastern European women have been subjected to forced prostitution in hotels. Migrant workers—including from China, Kenya, Madagascar, and countries in South Asia—make up 20 percent of the working population in Seychelles and are primarily employed in fishing and construction. Malagasy women who transit the Seychelles may be subjected to forced labor in the Middle East. Some migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in the construction sector. NGOs report 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 non-payment of wages and physical abuse. Migrant workers sign their employment contracts upon arrival in the Seychelles, which increases their vulnerability to fraudulent recruitment tactics. There were reports of employers routinely retaining migrant workers’ passports to prevent them from changing jobs prior to the expiration of their two-year contracts.