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.
Finalize, implement, and train law enforcement officials and front-line responders in written victim identification and referral procedures. • Fund specialized victim services, in particular for child, adult male, and Venezuelan victims. • Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases, including those involving child victims. • Hold convicted traffickers, including complicit public officials, accountable by imposing strong sentences. • Hold police and law enforcement officials accountable for intimidation of victims in shelters including restricted movement, lack of access to family visits, or telephone services. • Provide additional protection for victims to testify against traffickers in a way that minimizes re-traumatization. • Investigate and report on the cases reported to the trafficking hotline and by labor inspectors.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three years to life imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. 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 Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons (the Task Force). In 2018, the government reported 30 new investigations, prosecuted 11 suspected traffickers (two initiated in prior periods), and convicted one trafficker for sex trafficking, compared with four investigations, 17 prosecutions (12 initiated in prior periods), and two convictions in 2017. The government reported investigating 11 cases of child trafficking (10 sex trafficking and one labor trafficking). The court sentenced the convicted trafficker to three years’ imprisonment and required the trafficker to pay restitution to one victim. The appeal of a 2017 case in which the government required the trafficker to pay restitution without imprisonment, which was a penalty inconsistent with the law, was still pending at the end of this reporting period. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The appeal of a police officer convicted of sex trafficking and released on bail in 2016 was still pending at the end of the reporting period.
The government increased efforts to identify and protect victims. However, victim assistance remained a concern, especially in areas outside the capital and for Venezuelan, child, and male victims. The government identified 156 victims in 2018 (106 for sex trafficking and 50 for labor trafficking), compared with 131 identified victims in 2017. The government referred 93 victims to shelter and psychological services, compared with 115 in 2017. The government screened 11 potential child trafficking victims (10 sex trafficking and one labor trafficking) in 2018. Despite the noticeable increase of victims from Venezuela, the government lacked standard operating procedures for protecting foreign trafficking victims.
The government trained 43 village leaders, 20 mine inspectors, 32 immigration and police officers, and members of the business community and civil society in victim identification and referral. The government also trained 21 interpreters from foreign diplomatic missions in the trafficking law in order to prepare them to assist with non-English speaking trafficking victim interviews. The government provided 60 million Guyanese dollar (GYD) ($279,070) to NGO-managed shelters providing housing for adult female victims of gender-based violence and trafficking, an increase from 41.2 million GYD ($191,630) in 2017. The government also provided 3.5 million GYD ($16,280) for the first time in direct financial assistance to victims who chose not to stay in a shelter. Victims could receive shelter, food, training, and psychological therapy. There were no adequate public or private shelters for male or child victims, although the government has identified a facility for male victims. MoSP provided intake counselling to child victims who it placed in shelters co-managed with NGOs. MoSP placed some children into foster care or reintegrated them with their families, while authorities placed adult male victims at non-specialized night shelters on an ad hoc basis. Guyanese law protects victims’ identities from release to the media. The government reported victims could leave shelters; however, observers reported police and other authorities intimidated victims into staying at shelters against their will, did not allow family visits until trials were completed, and cut short some foreign victims’ phone calls if they spoke in their native language. 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 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 did not report whether it facilitated or funded the repatriation of Guyanese nationals victimized abroad.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government established an anti-trafficking unit with three trained staff within the Geology and Mines Commission to register and categorize workers in the interior and conduct spontaneous checks. The government approved a new national action plan for 2019 but did not report on activities under the plan by the end of the reporting period. The government last conducted research into trafficking in 2016. Authorities facilitated several awareness sessions focused on the mining and logging sectors outside the capital. The MoSP ATU held several sensitization campaigns for teachers, students, NGOs, prison staff and inmates, and malls and markets across Guyana. The government trained trafficking hotline operators in Spanish and Portuguese but did not report the number of calls or referrals received during the reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. Authorities conducted unannounced labor inspections in the capital and the interior, but it was unclear if measures to prevent forced labor and regulate foreign and domestic recruiters were sufficient or effective. The government drafted its first national child labor policy and plans to release it in 2019. Labor and natural resource inspectors received informal training in identification of victims but did not report identifying any cases. The government provided anti-trafficking training for 13 diplomatic personnel for the first time.
As reported over the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Guyana, and traffickers exploit victims from Guyana abroad. Women and children from Guyana, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Suriname, and Venezuela become sex trafficking victims in mining communities in the interior and urban areas. The government notes a large increase in the number of trafficking victims from Venezuela. Traffickers exploit victims in 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. Traffickers exploit Guyanese nationals in sex and labor trafficking in Jamaica, Suriname, and other Caribbean countries.