GUYANA: Tier 1

The Government of Guyana fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Guyana remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by increasing funding for victim assistance, identifying and assisting more victims for the third consecutive year, and opening and operating a trafficking shelter outside of the capital area. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not provide adequate protection and shelter outside the capital, or for child and male victims. The number of trafficking investigations and new prosecutions decreased, and the number of successful convictions remained low.

Fund specialized victim services outside the capital and 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 strong sentences; finalize the written identification procedures to better guide law enforcement officials; train more law enforcement, judiciary officials, and front-line responders—especially those working outside the capital—on victim identification and referral procedures; develop standard procedures for protecting foreign victims; provide additional protection for victims to testify against traffickers in a way that minimizes re-traumatization; monitor the number of cases reported to the trafficking hotline or by labor inspectors to promote a rapid investigative and victim assistance response; and provide training for diplomatic personnel on trafficking.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed sufficiently stringent penalties ranging from three years to life imprisonment. These penalties, with respect to sex trafficking, were commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law defined trafficking broadly to include the illegal sale of organs without the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The Ministry of Social Protection (MoSP) was the lead agency responsible for coordinating trafficking efforts, overseeing the Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU) and participating on the government’s inter-ministerial task force. The task force, which included representatives from several agencies and an anti-trafficking NGO, coordinated a number of successful police operations. In 2017, the government reported four new trafficking investigations (two for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking), 17 prosecutions (12 of which were initiated in previous reporting periods), and two convictions; compared to 19 investigations, 19 prosecutions, and two convictions in 2016. The court sentenced both convicted traffickers to three years imprisonment and required one trafficker to pay restitution to one victim. A case from the previous reporting period in which the government required the trafficker only to pay restitution, a penalty inconsistent with the law and one that the task force appealed, remained pending. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. Authorities confirmed the police officer who was convicted of sex trafficking in 2015 was terminated from his position in the police force; however, his appeal was still pending at the end of the reporting period. The government did not provide any support for trainings hosted by an international organization on combating complicity. The government-funded and executed training for police prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and social workers on victim-centered investigations and prosecution of trafficking cases.

The government increased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. However, victim assistance remained insufficient, especially in areas outside the capital and for child and male victims. The task force and ATU drafted standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification, referral, and assistance, but the SOPs were not formalized by the end of the reporting period as the government stated it planned to do so by the end of 2018. The government identified 131 victims in 2017 (65 for sex trafficking, 35 for labor trafficking, and 31 for both forms), compared with 98 in 2016. The government referred 115 victims to shelter and psycho-social services, compared with 40 in 2016. The government trained 156 village leaders and 96 government officials from the interior regions on victim identification and assistance. The government also trained members of the business community and civil society on victim identification.

The government provided 10 million Guyanese dollar (GYD) ($46,510) to the NGO-run shelter for the provision of enhanced psycho-social services to adult female trafficking victims referred by the government. The government provided 31.2 million GYD ($145,120) to another NGO that provided housing and counseling services to victims of gender-based violence, including an unknown number of trafficking victims. The government opened and operated the first shelter outside of the capital; the new shelter caters exclusively to adult female victims of trafficking. All identified victims received shelter, food, training, and psychological therapy. 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 victims were placed into foster care, safe homes, or were reintegrated with their families while adult male victims were placed at non-specialized night shelters on an ad hoc basis.

Guyanese law protects victims’ identities from release to the media. Victims could leave shelters; however, they were strongly encouraged to stay unless with a chaperone or until trials concluded. NGOs and MoSP provided protection and counseling for all identified victims, while the government provided transportation for victims who declined shelter but were willing to attend court proceedings. The government did not penalize victims for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. The government reported multiple cases of delivering foreign victims to their respective embassies at the request of the foreign missions before the conclusion of prosecutions. The government granted one victim temporary residence and legal employment in Guyana. The government, with the assistance of an international organization, repatriated 21 suspected trafficking victims. 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.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The task force met monthly, continued implementing the 2017-2018 anti-trafficking national plan of action, and MoSP committed approximately 23.4 million GYD ($108,840) to anti-trafficking efforts over the reporting period. In June, the task force trained 23 journalists on responsible reporting of trafficking cases. As in past years, the government systematically monitored its efforts and published its assessment. The government conducted a variety of awareness-raising activities, including producing pamphlets in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, television ads, and flash mobs. Authorities facilitated several awareness sessions focused on the mining and logging sectors outside the capital. The ATU executed numerous sensitization campaigns at schools, NGOs, prisons, and public spaces across Guyana. 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 or forced labor. Authorities conducted approximately 1,000 unannounced labor inspections in the capital and the interior. The government granted temporary amnesty to foreign laborers in order for them to regularize their immigration status in Guyana. Labor inspectors received trafficking-specific training, but did not report whether they identified any cases. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, but with in-kind assistance from international organizations, the task force began drafting a training module.

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, Haiti, 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.

U.S. Department of State

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