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SEYCHELLES: Tier 2 Watch List

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 significant efforts during the reporting period by continuing to prosecute a suspected trafficker, providing assistance to four trafficking victims from a 2016 case, and collaborating with an international organization to develop implementing regulations for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not report allocating funds for victim services, did not have any comprehensive shelters or care facilities available for trafficking victims, and did not implement its standard operating procedures or victim assistance mechanism, resulting in the government not identifying any trafficking victims during the year. The government also did not initiate any new investigations or prosecutions, or convict any traffickers, and did not provide adequate anti-trafficking training for its personnel. 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. The government did not have an active anti-trafficking committee that drove national anti-trafficking efforts. Therefore Seychelles was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SEYCHELLES

Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking under the anti-trafficking law, and convict and punish traffickers; implement standard operating procedures to systematically identify and refer trafficking victims to services; provide specialized training to government officials, including members of the National Coordinating Committee of Trafficking in Persons, law enforcement officials, social workers, immigration officials, and labor inspectors, on victim identification and referral procedures; allocate adequate funding for victim services; increase effectiveness of the National Coordinating Committee; adopt a 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; draft a national action plan to drive national efforts to combat all forms of trafficking; remove the required fee for a migrant worker to file 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; 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; and utilize the national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014 criminalized sex and labor trafficking in adults and children. The law prescribed penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment and a fine up to 500,000 Seychelles Rupees ($37,370), and in cases involving children, a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and a fine up to 800,000 Seychelles Rupees ($59,790); these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Elements of human trafficking were also criminalized in provisions of the penal code, including Section 250 that prohibited slavery, and Section 251 that prohibited forced labor. Although child sex trafficking was criminalized under the anti-trafficking law, unclear and conflicting statutes in the penal code did not clearly define the ages of consent, causing confusion between the traditionally understood age of consent (15 years of age) and the legal age of majority (18 years of age). The government, in collaboration with an international organization, began development of implementing regulations for the 2014 anti-trafficking law to more effectively address protective measures for trafficking victims.

During the reporting period, the government did not investigate or prosecute any new trafficking crimes and it has never convicted any traffickers. The government initiated its first investigation and prosecution under the anti-trafficking law in the previous reporting period and that case remained pending in court at the end of the reporting period. Unlike the prior reporting period, the National Coordinating Committee did not continue its case conferencing group, which was established to provide a cohesive approach to the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. The government did not conduct any training sessions for front-line officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, there were some allegations of corruption among immigration officials at the international airport. During the reporting period, immigration officers reported a lack of communication between immigration officers and possible high-level corruption, which allowed wealthy citizens from Gulf countries to coordinate the travel of young women aboard private planes, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. The government also reported that evidence collection remained a challenge. With support from an international organization, the government has had access to a national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool since 2015; however, the government has never utilized this tool, despite receiving training from an international organization during the reporting period.

PROTECTION

The government made negligible efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. The government did not identify any victims during the reporting period or report efforts to implement the standard operating procedures or victim assistance mechanism in order to systematically undertake such efforts; in comparison, the government proactively identified four Bangladeshi victims of forced labor and assisted 16 potential Malagasy victims following their interception during the previous reporting period. The government continued to provide accommodation, food, and travel costs, and permitted the temporary stay and employment of four Bangladeshi forced labor victims identified last reporting period. The government did not assist in or facilitate the repatriation of any trafficking victims during the reporting period, compared with the repatriation of 16 potential victims in coordination with the Government of Madagascar during the previous reporting period. There were no shelters specifically for trafficking victims or comprehensive care facilities in the country; however, in prior years, the Social Affairs Department of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs provided victims with accommodations in private guesthouses, per diem, access to a social worker and translator, and new work permits. The government did not report providing training to social workers on implementing the victim identification and assistance tool during the reporting period, as it had done in the previous reporting period.

The 2014 anti-trafficking law allowed for limited legal alternatives to victim removal to countries in which they would face hardship; the law permitted the minister of home affairs to decide whether to allow a foreign victim to stay in the country for 30 days, issue a permit letting the victim to stay in the country for a period until the completion of legal proceedings, or deport the foreign victim. The law protected trafficking victims from being detained or prosecuted for the illegal entry into Seychelles, but it did not protect the victim from being inappropriately prosecuted for other unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government reportedly detained some potential victims entering the country through the international airport; however, there were no reports that the government inappropriately detained or penalized trafficking victims during the reporting period. Moreover, because officials did not use standard victim identification procedures, victims likely remained unidentified in the law enforcement system and as a result may have been inappropriately penalized. The anti-trafficking law allowed the government to provide compensation to victims from the fine imposed on the accused or from the Trafficking in Persons Fund; however, the government has never awarded compensation to victims or funded the Trafficking in Persons Fund. The 2014 anti-trafficking law provided for the government to place witnesses under protection and, if the court found it necessary, for trafficking trials to be held in private for the sake of the victim or witness’ confidentiality and privacy. The anti-trafficking law also ensured victims could testify through closed circuit television and courtroom accommodations could be made for the psychological comfort of the victim.

PREVENTION

The government decreased prevention efforts. The National Coordinating Committee on Trafficking in Persons, established to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts across government agencies and drive national efforts, significantly decreased its efforts during the reporting period. Despite requirements in the anti-trafficking law to meet at least twice a year, the committee did not meet during the reporting period. The government did not report progress in implementing the 2014-2015 national action plan or undertaking efforts to draft an updated plan. Unlike last year, the government did not conduct annual awareness campaigns, other than distributing the national helpline number to the public. The Ministry of Employment, Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation (MOE) reported that, in partnership with the Government of the Philippines, it had developed new brochures detailing migrant worker rights, but did not report whether the brochures were disseminated to any workers during the reporting period. The government maintained a police helpline for reporting crimes, including trafficking, but the government did not report whether it received any calls.

The government does not have effective policies or laws regulating labor recruiters. Trafficking vulnerabilities in labor recruitment and monitoring persisted throughout the country during the reporting period. Despite the known vulnerability, seizure and retention of passports by employers is legal under Seychellois law, unless it was specifically for the purpose of further trafficking a person. The MOE employed labor inspectors that were responsible for conducting inspections of all workplaces in the country and informing all migrant workers of their employment rights. The MOE continued to lack authority to conduct inspections in the SITZ, where many migrant laborers work, as it was considered exterritorial and was 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 provided all citizens and foreign workers with national identity cards and employment permits. The government did not make efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period, despite the prevalence.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the last five years, 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 bars, guest houses, hotels, brothels, private homes, and on the street. Young drug addicts are vulnerable to forced prostitution and traffickers have subjected Eastern European women to forced prostitution in hotels. Migrant workers—including from Bangladesh, India, China, Kenya, Madagascar, and countries in South Asia—make up 20 percent of the working population in Seychelles and are primarily employed in fishing, farming, and construction; some workers are subjected to forced labor in the construction sector. Malagasy women who transit the Seychelles may be subjected to forced labor in the Middle East. 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 and frequently do not speak the language, 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.

U.S. Department of State

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