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The Government of Curaçao does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included investigating more cases, including one for official complicity, and identifying and assisting more victims. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Authorities detained and deported victims, including Venezuelans, who did not immediately agree to cooperate in the case against their traffickers and did so without referring them to care services or without consideration of possible abuse in their home country. The government did not vigorously prosecute trafficking cases and did not convict any traffickers. Therefore Curaçao was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

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

Provide potential victims who chose to not cooperate with law enforcement in the case against their traffickers with legal alternatives to deportation, especially where victims face harm or abuse in their home country. • Amend the National Action Plan to allow assistance provision to victims even when they choose to not cooperate with law enforcement in the case against their traffickers. • Refer victims to care services where they can begin rehabilitation before requiring victims assist a criminal investigation. • Vigorously prosecute trafficking cases and convict and punish traffickers, including government officials complicit in trafficking, with adequate penalties, which should include significant prison terms. • Provide services for potential victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, even when they choose to not cooperate in the prosecution of their traffickers. • Amend existing legislation to prescribe penalties for sex trafficking offenses to be commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. • Increase proactive victim identification among vulnerable populations, such as migrants, individuals in prostitution, and those in detention facilities. • Provide foreign victims easier access to work permits to incentivize them to stay and assist law enforcement. • Disseminate standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral to law enforcement and detention facility staff and train officials on their use. • Provide specialized care and assistance for trafficking victims, including male victims. • Allocate sufficient resources for anti-trafficking efforts, including protection services and funding for the implementation of the national anti-trafficking action plan. • Provide targeted training and resources for local officials to conduct outreach to vulnerable migrant communities through awareness campaigns focused on workers’ rights, trafficking indicators, and available resources.

The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 2:239 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to nine years’ imprisonment or a fifth category fine of up to $56,000 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; however, with respect to sex trafficking these penalties were not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities investigated four cases of potential trafficking, compared with zero in 2017; three of the four investigations remained active at the end of the reporting period, while prosecutors indicted the individual in the fourth case for providing employment to undocumented migrants and sentenced him to community service and a fine. Despite strong indicators of forced labor, authorities did not collect sufficient evidence to prove trafficking and the case was not convicted under the trafficking statute, compared with two individuals prosecuted and convicted in 2017 who received suspended jail sentences and three years of probation. The government investigated a case involving a police officer believed to be complicit in the alleged trafficking of 18 Venezuelan nationals; the case remained open at the end of the reporting period. The government folded its trafficking unit into a newly created unit tasked with combating transnational crime. The Office of the Attorney General provided training for all members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office on investigations and the legal challenges of trafficking cases. Law enforcement officials, including police and immigration personnel participated in an annual regional training event focused on investigations of trafficking crimes. As customary, participants signed an MOU reaffirming their commitment to combat trafficking and to conduct a minimum of four trafficking investigations a year; authorities reported difficulty meeting this benchmark due to lack of personnel.

The government increased the number of victims identified, but protection efforts were inadequate. In 2018, there was a mass influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees overstaying their visa and working illegally, which likely affected Curaçao’s efforts to combat trafficking. During the reporting period, the government conducted an increased number of immigration and law enforcement operations that led to the detention of undocumented individuals, many identified as potential victims. Authorities identified 44 potential victims (five in 2017): 16 potential victims of sex trafficking, 10 of forced labor, and 18 of both. Forty three of the potential victims identified were Venezuelan, and one was Jamaican. Assistance for victims was contingent on cooperation with law enforcement in the case against their traffickers. Eleven chose to assist law enforcement with investigations while authorities detained and deported 33 to their country of origin. Of the 11, nine received shelter and residency permits, and authorities deported two who withdrew their willingness to cooperate, despite expressing fear of reprisal and frustration over their inability to work. Through a separate administrative process, victims were eligible to apply for temporary work permits; however, many victims could not afford the cost. Front-line responders used standard operating procedures on victim identification and referral; however, it was unclear if detention facility staff received training on their use. The government did not operate any specialized shelters for trafficking victims; however, authorities provided some funding to NGOs and international organizations to assist victims in need of care. NGOs could host female trafficking victims in shelters for women victims of domestic violence, which restricted victims’ movements if authorities deemed their safety was at risk. During the reporting period, authorities reported placing victims who received temporary residence in short-term government-funded apartments since existing shelter facilities had reached maximum capacity. The government referred child victims of trafficking to guardianship councils for placement in boarding school or foster care; the government did not report how many children it identified or assisted. Authorities reported difficulty finding shelter services for male victims due to budget constraints. The government detained and deported identified victims who were in the country illegally and did not cooperate with law enforcement in the case against their traffickers for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit, including Venezuelans nationals.

The government maintained insufficient prevention efforts. The government continued to use the 2017-2021 national action plan but did not establish a dedicated budget for its implementation. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Social Affairs began research on the prevalence of child trafficking, including risk factors and recruitment tactics used by perpetrators. The government continued the awareness campaign meant to dissuade Venezuelan women from traveling to Curaçao to work in bars and dance venues where they were vulnerable to trafficking. The government operated a victim assistance hotline but did not receive any trafficking tips during the reporting period. The government continued to regulate the open-air brothel, Campo Alegre, and it kept an official registry of individuals working there. The government provided routine medical screenings, residency, and work permits. The government did not report efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex or forced labor.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Curaçao. Traffickers exploit Curaçaoan and foreign women and girls, mainly Dominicans and Venezuelans in sex trafficking, as well as migrant workers from other Caribbean countries, South America, China, and India in forced labor in construction, landscaping, minimarkets, retail, and restaurants. Undocumented migrants are at particular risk, including the influx of Venezuelan nationals.

U.S. Department of State

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