The Government of Curaçao 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, Curaçao remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by initiating more trafficking investigations, one of which involved three allegedly complicit police officers, and providing assistance and care to increasing numbers of trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. It did not prosecute or convict any traffickers for the second consecutive year; did not finalize standard operating procedures on victim identification; and did not address sex trafficking within the unregulated commercial sex industry.
Increase efforts to identify and assist potential victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, including in the unregulated commercial sex industry; vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including any government officials complicit in human trafficking; finalize formal victim identification, referral, and protection measures to guide officials, including health workers, on assisting victims of forced labor and sex trafficking; complete and implement the new national anti-trafficking action plan; provide targeted training and resources to local officials to conduct outreach in migrant communities; raise awareness among migrant workers about their rights, trafficking indicators, and available resources; continue to implement multilingual public awareness campaigns directed at vulnerable groups, the general public, and potential buyers of commercial sex acts; provide specialized care and assistance for victims of trafficking; and allocate an independent budget to the National Taskforce to Combat Trafficking In Persons and Human Smuggling to improve anti-trafficking efforts.
The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 2:239 of the criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, which prescribes penalties ranging from nine to 24 years imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated two sex trafficking cases, compared to none in 2015, but for the second consecutive year, did not initiate any prosecutions or convict traffickers. In November 2016, the government initiated an investigation of one case involving five suspects, including three police officers, for the sex trafficking of a Venezuelan woman fraudulently recruited for a restaurant job; the officers remained on suspension at the close of the reporting period as the investigation was ongoing. Beyond this case, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. In March 2017, the government initiated an investigation of a Venezuelan woman allegedly running an illegal brothel and facilitating the sex trafficking of women, predominantly from Venezuela. The government trained approximately 20 police officers with a focus on the investigation and prosecution of sex trafficking offenses, and trained 30 officials on victim identification and the special needs of trafficking victims.
The government maintained efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. It reported identification of four trafficking victims and six potential victims intercepted transiting Curaçao en route to France; this is compared to zero identified in 2015 and seven in 2014. During the reporting period, the national taskforce drafted but did not finalize standard operating procedures on victim identification for all front-line responders. In the interim, it maintained informal agreements to coordinate ad hoc victim referral among community-based organizations and government departments. Various divisions of the Curaçao Police Force, such as the immigration department, the organized crime department, and the Department of Intelligence identified victims and, on an ad hoc basis, referred victims to the Bureau for Victim Assistance for care. While the government did not operate any specialized shelters for trafficking victims, it had capacity to host trafficking victims in shelters for domestic violence victims, which restricted victims’ movements if their safety was at risk. There were no specialized shelters for male victims; however, the Bureau for Victim Assistance funded shelter for victims in private accommodations. It also partnered with NGOs to provide victims with wide-ranging and comprehensive care and assistance, which included legal assistance, shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and counseling among other services; four victims of trafficking received care and assistance. The government had a policy to protect victims from being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking and reportedly allowed foreign victims to temporarily remain in the country to assist in law enforcement investigations. Victims could provide written testimony in court proceedings. Should victims choose not to assist, they were still provided protections and support to depart the country; the government provided legal assistance to three victims in an ongoing investigation. Trafficking victims could seek restitution from the government and file civil suits against traffickers; however, there were no reported cases of them doing so in 2016.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. While the interagency taskforce lacked sufficient funds and resources to combat trafficking, it continued to coordinate national anti-trafficking efforts and implement the Administrative Report on Trafficking in Persons, its existing anti-trafficking action plan; it completed a revised draft for 2016-2017, which now awaits approval by the Minister of Justice. The government operated a trafficking tip hotline, although no tips were received during the reporting period. The government did not report new efforts to reduce demand for forced labor, or commercial sex.
In Curacao, prostitution is legal but underage prostitution is not. The government continued to keep an official register of individuals in prostitution working in Campo Alegre. These individuals, whose ages range from 18-50, are allowed a three-month residence permit and are restricted to working in Campo Alegre. The government reported no registered cases of underage prostitution. The Ministries of Justice and of Social Development, Labor, and Welfare continued cooperation in conducting full review of all work permit applications and jointly managing issuance of work and residence permits. The Ministry of Labor allowed foreign migrant laborers to request residence permits independent of their employers to ensure employees had better knowledge regarding the terms of work within contracts. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, Curaçao is a source and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Vulnerable populations include women and girls in the unregulated commercial sex industry; foreign women from South America and other Caribbean countries in the regulated commercial sex industry; and migrant workers, including from other Caribbean countries, South America, India, and China in the dry dock, construction, landscaping, minimarket, retail, and restaurant industries. Media accounts indicate an increase in the number of Venezuelan women who work illegally at roadside bars (“snacks”) and are subjected to prostitution in both legal and illegal brothels in Curacao. These women, who may be engaged in prostitution or overstay their visas while in Curaçao and become undocumented, are vulnerable to human trafficking.