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ARUBA: Tier Tier 2†

The Government of Aruba 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, Aruba remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by initiating investigations, upholding the 2013 conviction of one trafficker, identifying potential victims, conducting awareness campaigns, and establishing the Counter Trafficking Coordination Center (CTCC)—responsible for coordinating awareness trainings and for gathering and analyzing indicators of human trafficking. However, the government did not meet minimum standards in several key areas. For the third consecutive year, it did not initiate any new prosecutions or secure any new convictions, and only very limited efforts were made to refer and protect victims.

Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish traffickers; proactively identify trafficking victims among all vulnerable groups, including domestic workers, migrants in construction, supermarkets, and the retail sector, and women in the regulated prostitution industry and who hold adult entertainment visas; amend the anti-trafficking law to ensure penalties are sufficiently stringent and restrict the ability of judges to impose fines in lieu of prison time when sentencing convicted traffickers; continue to provide information to all migrant workers arriving in Aruba on their rights and resources for assistance; finalize and implement the victim assessment and referral process; formalize agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims; allocate sufficient resources to enable the national anti-trafficking taskforce and national coordinator to improve anti-trafficking efforts; and implement the 2015-2019 national anti-trafficking action plan.

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Articles 203a and 286a of the criminal code prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons. In 2014, the government amended the penal code to criminalize the receipt of services from a trafficking victim if the individual knows the victim is being forced or coerced to provide the services and to increase penalties to eight to 18 years imprisonment or a fine of 25,000 to 100,000 Aruba West Indies Guilder (AWG) ($14,045-56,180). These penalties are generally sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape; however, instances in which fines are applied in lieu of imprisonment are inadequate to deter trafficking crimes.

The national coordinator received referrals for four alleged forced labor and seven suspected sex trafficking cases, compared to five in 2015. Of these, the government conducted subsequent investigations in six of these cases, compared to one in 2015. The government did not initiate any prosecutions for trafficking offenses or newly convict any traffickers for the third consecutive year. In January 2016, the government upheld the 2013 conviction of a trafficker to five years imprisonment for fraudulently recruiting workers, threatening and physically injuring victims, and exploiting women in sex trafficking. The government also upheld the 2013 conviction and sentencing in absentia of his wife, including 22 months imprisonment; she remains outside of Aruba and has not served her sentence. The public prosecutor and police screened all human smuggling cases for indicators of human trafficking. In 2016, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking. However, it arrested and suspended an immigration officer who allegedly allowed illegal border crossings and falsification of documents; at the close of the reporting period, this case remained under investigation.

The Counter Trafficking Taskforce trained 450 government officials on the signs of human trafficking and their responsibilities to combat it. The government created a multidisciplinary investigative team, the team comprises officials from the police and the Directorates of Alien Affairs and Labor, designated to investigate cases of human trafficking and smuggling; and established the Counter Trafficking Coordination Center (CTCC), which coordinated trainings and analyzed indicators of human trafficking. At the Interpol Conference on Human Trafficking in the Caribbean, the CTCC provided training on victim identification and assistance procedures and gave a presentation on the multidisciplinary approach towards human trafficking used in Aruba and the possibilities for regional cooperation to combat trafficking to approximately 100 law enforcement officials from Aruba and various Latin America and Caribbean countries.

The government identified an increased number of victims and maintained assistance efforts. The government identified nine potential victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, an increase from one in 2015. It reported initiating use of a trafficking victim referral process, drafted in the previous reporting period, to guide officials using a three-tier system of high, medium, and low urgency. The Bureau for Victim Assistance, the government agency providing shelter, legal assistance, and medical care to all victims of criminal acts and the national coordinator utilized this process to refer one victim to NGOs for shelter and assistance during the reporting period; however, the victim did not utilize these services and found private accommodations after government issuance of a special permit for victims of trafficking. Multi-disciplinary teams of police, labor and immigration officials conducted inspections aimed at identifying potential labor exploitation. In addition to identifying employers who illegally employ workers, the teams also focused on ensuring all workers received appropriate wages and compensation for their services.

The government encouraged victims to cooperate in investigations and prosecutions by arranging for shelter and providing necessary care and assistance; and in June 2016, the Legislation Committee of the Aruba Taskforce started to ensure trafficking victims accessibility to legal aid, medical assistance, and immigration support. The taskforce and the Bureau for Victim Assistance could provide potential victims with emergency shelter, food, medical care, legal assistance, temporary immigration relief, and financial and repatriation assistance; the bureau also operated a hotline for trafficking victims. The taskforce maintained informal, verbal agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims; however, the government did not support the work of these organizations. Unaccompanied children received shelter in foster care centers or in foster homes, and in certain cases, local churches could also provide shelter. Nonetheless, to improve availability of shelter, in December 2016, the taskforce signed an MOU with a local NGO to establish a multifunctional shelter in Aruba for victims in the Dutch Caribbean; however it did not begin implementation of the agreement. The national anti-trafficking taskforce lacked a dedicated budget for shelter and other forms of victim assistance. Foreign victims are entitled to the same rights and protection as Arubans. Officials conducted risk assessments before deciding whether victims could leave shelters unchaperoned, and restricted their movement if their lives were threatened. The anti-trafficking taskforce continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the most common signs of human trafficking.

The law authorizes the extension of temporary immigration relief for foreign victims for three to six months on a case-by-case basis, and allows foreign victims whose employers are suspected of human trafficking to change employers. The criminal code enabled victims to file civil suits against traffickers and if the trial resulted from a criminal investigation, the victim could also seek restitution not to exceed 50,000 AWG ($28,090) for financial and emotional damages. Victims were not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The 2015-2019 national anti-trafficking action plan, completed by the taskforce in the previous reporting period, remained pending approval by the government. While the taskforce and other relevant stakeholders lacked the capacity to be exclusively dedicated to combating trafficking, in the interim, they reported limited efforts to begin implementation of the plan. The CTCC gave a presentation on multidisciplinary and regional cooperation, provided training during the Interpol Conference on Human Trafficking in the Caribbean, and worked with NGOs to explore possibilities of a multifunction shelter for victims needing temporary shelter. The government continued its trafficking awareness campaigns, via social media and posters and flyers in four languages targeting both victims and the general public; the campaign was linked to a hotline staffed by the national coordinator trained to assist trafficking victims. The government conducted an awareness campaign highlighting the risks of becoming victims of human trafficking, which targeted students leaving Aruba to study abroad. In connection with the National Day Against Human Trafficking, the taskforce cooperated with an NGO to host its first Walk for Freedom in Oranjestad; 50 people participated. The government continued procedures to screen and inform adult entertainers and meet with a Dutch consular officer to ensure the applicant knows his/her rights and are fully informed of the work agreement before picking up their in-flight letter at the Dutch embassy in Colombia. Upon arrival, such visa recipients undergo medical check-ups and receive information about their rights, risks, and resources. In an effort to reduce the entry or transit of potential victims of human trafficking and smuggling into Aruba, the government established a minimum amount of cash needed to stay in Aruba and created a register of all persons who acted as guarantors for foreigners entering the country. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, Aruba is a source and destination country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Venezuelan women are subjected to trafficking in Aruba’s commercial sex trade and foreign men and women are vulnerable to forced labor in the service and construction industries. Chinese men and women working in supermarkets, Indian men in the retail sector and domestic service, and Caribbean and South American women in domestic service are also at risk of forced labor. A 2013 international organization report identified women in Aruba’s regulated and unregulated prostitution sectors, domestic workers, and employees of small retail shops as populations most vulnerable to trafficking. Children may be vulnerable to sex trafficking and to forced labor in Chinese-owned supermarkets and restaurants.

Aruba is an autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For the purpose of this report, Aruba 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 Aruba would be assessed if it were a separate, independent country.

U.S. Department of State

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