The Government of Aruba does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government launched an anti-trafficking campaign, allocated some funding to victim assistance, and worked closely with a victim to bring traffickers to justice. However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to efforts during the previous reporting period. The government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted fewer traffickers and did not issue adequate penalties. In addition, authorities identified and assisted fewer victims. Therefore Aruba was downgraded to Tier 2.
__________ * 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.
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers. • Sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms. • Amend existing legislation to ensure penalties prescribed for sex trafficking offenses are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. • Proactively identify victims among all vulnerable groups, including women in prostitution, those who hold adult entertainment visas, domestic workers, and migrants working in construction, supermarkets, and retail. • Implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and increase referral of possible trafficking victims among Venezuelan migrants and asylum-seekers. • Dedicate funding to the anti-trafficking task force and national coordinator. • Train law enforcement officials, coast guard, labor inspectors, prosecutors, and judges on victim-centered approaches to trafficking cases. • Provide information to all migrant workers and tourists arriving in Aruba on their rights and resources for assistance, including Venezuelans. • Formalize agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims. • Finalize the implementation strategy for the construction of the multifaceted shelter for victims of crimes, including trafficking.
The government decreased prosecution efforts. Article 2:239 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to eight years’ imprisonment or a fine for offenses involving a victim 16 years of age or older, and up to 12 years’ imprisonment or a fine for those involving a victim under the age of 16. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking of victims under the age of 16, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, for sex trafficking offenses involving victims 16 years of age or older, these penalties were not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Human Trafficking and Smuggling Unit (UMM) investigated three new trafficking cases; one remained open, one dismissed for lack of evidence, and one sent back to the Ministry of Labor for administrative action (seven cases in 2017). The government prosecuted one individual (five in 2017) and convicted one trafficker for smuggling, issuing a sentence of eight months’ imprisonment. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. Law enforcement officials, including police and immigration personnel participated in an annual regional training event focused on investigations of trafficking crimes. Authorities participated and shared best practices at the regional Interpol Conference on Human Trafficking in the Caribbean.
The government decreased protection efforts. In 2018, two victims were identified (compared with 71 in 2017 and nine in 2016) after a large INTERPOL operation involving 13 countries; both victims received hygiene kits, shelter, and financial support. The anti-trafficking task force continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the most common signs of trafficking. Multi-disciplinary teams comprised police, labor, and immigration officials continued to operate; however, the government did not report identifying any victims. In 2018, there was a mass influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees overstaying their visa and working illegally, which likely affected Aruba’s efforts to combat trafficking. Although authorities reported screening illegal migrants for trafficking indicators ahead of deportation some members of civil society claimed to have seen an increase of trafficking victims seeking assistance. The government had a formal victim referral mechanism to guide officials; however, the government did not report referring victims using this mechanism. The government maintained informal verbal agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims of trafficking. Authorities placed unaccompanied child victims in foster care centers, foster homes, or local churches. Officials conducted risk assessments before deciding whether victims could leave shelters unchaperoned and restricted their movement if their lives were threatened. In 2017, the government began drafting a plan for the development of a multifunctional shelter for victims in the Dutch Caribbean; however, officials did not report any progress on the shelter in this reporting period. In 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) provided a portion of its funding for victim assistance; however, the government did not confirm the amount provided. Authorities reported one victim assisted the government in the prosecution of their traffickers during the reporting period. Although foreign victims were entitled to the same rights and protection as Arubans, the government did not report how many received benefits. The law authorized the extension of temporary immigration relief for foreign victims for three to six months on a case by case basis and allowed foreign victims whose employers were suspected of trafficking to change employers. Authorities did not report whether any victims received these benefits. The criminal code enabled victims to file civil suits against traffickers and if the trial resulted from a criminal investigation, the victim could seek compensation not to exceed 50,000 florin ($28,090) for financial and emotional damages. The Bureau of Victim Assistance operated a hotline for potential victims of all crimes, including trafficking; however, the government did not identify any victims using the hotline, compared with four in 2017.
The government decreased prevention efforts. The government continued the implementation of the 2018-2022 national action plan and made a request to parliament for an annual budget; approval remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government continued to raise awareness of trafficking and the hotline via social media, posters, and flyers in four languages. The government educated students leaving Aruba to study abroad on the risks of becoming victims. In connection with the National Day Against Human Trafficking, the task force helped disseminate a documentary on trafficking that was produced and financed by a local TV station. The government reported using the content of the video to train local officials; however, authorities did not report how many individuals were trained. The government continued procedures to screen and inform adult entertainers from Colombia, who must meet with Dutch consular officers to ensure the applicants know their rights and their work agreement before picking up their in-flight letter at the Dutch embassy in Colombia. Upon arrival, such visa recipients received information about their rights, risks, and resources. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Aruba. Traffickers exploit Venezuelan women in sex trafficking and foreign men and women to forced labor in Aruba’s service and construction industries. Due to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, the number of Venezuelans overstaying their visa increased, leaving many with expired documentation and more likely to seek employment opportunities in sectors with high vulnerability to trafficking, such as domestic service, construction, and prostitution. 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. Women in regulated and unregulated prostitution, domestic workers, and employees of small retail shops are the most vulnerable to trafficking. Children may be vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in Chinese-owned supermarkets and restaurants.