SEYCHELLES: Tier 2

The Government of Seychelles does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period; therefore Seychelles was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts by investigating and prosecuting more cases, as well as convicting its first trafficker under the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014; investigating a senior government official; identifying and providing assistance to more victims; and allocating some funds to assist victims this year. For the first time, the government awarded victims restitution from their traffickers, and the government also established a special task force to inspect migrant worker labor conditions, including inspections in the Seychelles International Trade Zone (SITZ) during the reporting period. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not have any comprehensive shelters or care facilities available for trafficking victims, and it did not implement its standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral or its victim assistance mechanism. The government did not provide adequate anti-trafficking training for its personnel, nor did it utilize its national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool. The government did not provide sufficient resources for victim assistance and did not adopt a National Action Plan (NAP) to address trafficking. Government officials denied the existence of and made negligible efforts to address sex trafficking in Seychelles.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Implement standard operating procedures to systematically identify and refer trafficking victims.

• Establish a shelter for victims.

• 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, including for victims of sex trafficking.

• Using the anti-trafficking law, continue to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and sentence convicted traffickers to adequate penalties.

• Allocate adequate funding and resources for victim services and front-line officials.

• Draft a national action plan to drive national efforts to combat all forms of trafficking.

• Implement the requirements of the 2014 anti-trafficking act, including establishing a secretariat to support the National Coordinating Committee and a Victim Assistance Fund.

• Adopt a law prohibiting the retention of passports by employers of migrant workers.

• Remove the required fee for a migrant worker to file a complaint with the Labor Tribunal and screen and refer potential labor trafficking cases for criminal prosecution.

• 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.

• Utilize the national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool.

• Continue to implement labor laws, including strong oversight and inspection authority, in all of Seychelles, including the international trade zone, the residences that employ domestic workers, and migrant workers’ work sites.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking of adults and children. The law prescribed penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine up to 500,000 Seychelles rupee ($36,900), and, in cases involving children, a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine up to 800,000 Seychelles rupee ($59,040); these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Provisions in the penal code criminalized elements of human trafficking. Although the anti-trafficking law criminalized child sex trafficking, 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). In the prior reporting period, the government, in collaboration with an international organization, began development of implementing regulations for the 2014 anti-trafficking law to address protective measures for trafficking victims; however, the government did not report progress on these regulations.

During the reporting period, the government investigated 45 suspected forced labor cases and, of these, initiated prosecution of three cases and closed 39 due to insufficient evidence. Investigations in the other three cases are ongoing. This compared to zero reported investigations and prosecutions initiated in the prior reporting period. The government convicted its first trafficker under the 2014 anti-trafficking law and prescribed a penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 400,000 Seychelles rupee ($29,520) on four counts of trafficking. The court ruled that each of the four victims would receive 50,000 Seychelles rupee ($3,690) in restitution. The government reported initiating an investigation into a senior government official in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who formerly worked for the Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status (MOE), for fraudulently issuing work permits to migrant workers for the purpose of exploiting migrant workers in forced labor. In the previous reporting period, immigration officers reported 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; however, the government did not report investigating these allegations. In partnership with foreign officials from the United Kingdom, the Department of Immigration reported facilitating training for 25 border control officials. The government also reported that evidence collection remained a challenge and front-line officials required additional training. With support from an international organization, the government has had access to a national centralized anti-trafficking data collection and reporting tool since 2015, but it has never utilized this tool, despite receiving training.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims; however, efforts to identify victims of sex trafficking were inadequate. The government identified nine adult male forced labor victims during the reporting period, an increase from zero during the prior reporting period. However, the government did not systematically implement its victim identification and referral tool, which continued to hamper protection efforts. The government did not assist in or facilitate the repatriation of any trafficking victims during the reporting period. There were no shelters for trafficking victims or comprehensive care facilities in the country; however, as in prior years, the Social Affairs Department of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs provided the nine victims with accommodation in private guesthouses, homeless shelters, or a facility previously used to hold suspected criminals, where they had freedom of movement. The government also provided per diem to the victims to cover daily living expenses, as well as medical and psychological care to one victim. The Coordinating Committee reported spending approximately 275,000 Seychelles rupee ($20,300) for victim care in 2018. Without financial assistance from the government, a local NGO identified three victims and provided them with shelter; psychological counseling was provided on an ad hoc basis. The government did not report providing the victims with new work permits, unlike the previous reporting period. The government reported providing training to an unknown number of social workers on implementing the victim identification and referral tool during the reporting period; however, there were continued reports that front-line officials failed to utilize the tool. Migrant workers remained highly vulnerable to trafficking and the government did not report efforts to identify or assist victims of sex trafficking.

The 2014 anti-trafficking law allowed the government to place witnesses under protection and, if the court found it necessary, to hold trafficking trials in private for the sake of the victim or witness’ confidentiality and privacy. The government reported providing alternative accommodations and some police protection for 12 victims under witness protection, but did not report holding any trafficking trials in private for victim confidentiality. The anti-trafficking law also ensured victims could testify through closed circuit television and that courtroom accommodations could be made for the psychological comfort of the victim; however, the government did not report utilizing these provisions during the 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. However, the government did not report issuing any temporary residency permits or gainful occupation permits during the reporting period. Migrant workers with labor-related complaints were often referred to unions where they had access to union representation and help obtaining legal assistance. The anti-trafficking law allowed the government to provide restitution to victims from the fine imposed on the accused or from the Trafficking in Persons Fund; however, the government has never allotted resources to the Trafficking in Persons Fund. For the first time, the government awarded four victims restitution under the anti-trafficking law, while an additional three victims filed civil suits for compensation of salary from their employer. The law protected trafficking victims from detention or prosecution for illegal entry into Seychelles, but it did not protect the victim from prosecution for other unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. There were no reports that the government inappropriately detained or penalized trafficking victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit; however, because officials did not use standard victim identification procedures, victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.

PREVENTION

The government maintained minimal national-level prevention efforts, while working to better address vulnerabilities among migrant workers. The National Coordinating Committee on Trafficking in Persons, established to direct anti-trafficking efforts across government agencies and drive national policy, began meeting again after being largely inactive during the last reporting period. The Coordinating Committee began work on a new anti-trafficking national action plan but did not report officially adopting it, and its efforts to drive national anti-trafficking efforts remained limited overall. The government provided the Coordinating Committee with a specific budget to combat trafficking in persons, including for accommodations for identified victims. However, the government did not establish a secretariat to support the Coordinating Committee due to lack of office accommodations. The government did not conduct national public awareness campaigns; but it held sensitization fairs regarding proper labor conditions, including information on forced labor situations, and labor inspectors distributed material on workers’ rights during site visits. In the prior reporting period, MOE reported that, in partnership with the Government of the Philippines, it had developed new brochures and leaflets detailing migrant worker rights but still had not disseminated the brochures to any workers. The government maintained two hotlines, one with the police and one with the Department of Immigration, for reporting crimes, including trafficking; however, the government did not report how many calls it received.

The MOE established a new inter-ministerial Special Task Force to address the living and working conditions of migrant workers; the task force comprised representatives from the MOE; the Ministry of Environment; the Ministry of Health; the Seychelles Police Force, the Seychelles Licensing Authority; Seychelles Fire and Rescue Services; and the Industrial Estate Agency. The task force reported inspecting 35 work sites and the MOE inspected 266 sites for indications of trafficking, but it did not report how many inspections resulted in the identification of potential forced labor victims or law enforcement actions. In accordance with the Employment Act, the MOE reviewed all contracts for migrant workers to ensure compliance with its provisions, including acceptable accommodations; however, the government did not have effective policies or laws regulating or providing oversight for 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 remained legal under Seychellois law, unless proved it was specifically for the purpose of further trafficking a person. The MOE employed labor inspectors responsible for inspecting 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 ex-territorial and managed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). However, during the reporting period, the task force coordinated with the FSA to conduct two joint inspections in the SITZ; but the MOE’s lack of jurisdiction continued to limit its ability to protect migrant workers. The government did not report whether any of these inspections resulted in identification of potential forced labor victims or law enforcement actions.

The MOE required prior approval by the employer before an inspector could enter private homes to monitor employers of domestic workers; four such inspections took place during the reporting period. However, requiring prior employer approval continued to limit 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 potential trafficking crimes or labor violations. The government continued to utilize the Labor Tribunal for labor-related complaints and continued to require a fee for migrant workers to file a complaint. The government provided all citizens and foreign workers with national identity cards. Due to concerns that historically the majority of identified trafficking victims in Seychelles have been Bangladeshi, the government suspended issuance of work permits to Bangladeshi nationals for 12 months, while it negotiated a bilateral labor agreement with the Government of Bangladesh. In general, such suspensions of work permits have the potential to increase migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking, since they eliminate the legal means for intending workers to travel to countries for work. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to diplomats. The government did not make efforts to decrease the demand for commercial sex during the reporting period, despite the prevalence.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Seychelles. Traffickers exploit some Seychellois girls and, according to some sources, boys in child sex trafficking, particularly on the main island of Mahe; peers, family members, and pimps exploit them in bars, guest houses, hotels, brothels, private homes, and on the street. Young drug addicts are vulnerable to sex trafficking, and sex traffickers have exploited Eastern European women in hotels. In 2017, there were reports of 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. Traffickers may subject Malagasy women who transit the Seychelles to forced labor in the Middle East. However, the government still does not acknowledge the occurrence of sex trafficking in Seychelles. Migrant workers—including from Bangladesh, India, China, Kenya, Madagascar, and countries in South Asia—make up 20 percent (21,000) of the working population in Seychelles and are primarily employed in fishing, farming, and construction; credible reports indicate traffickers subject migrant workers to forced labor in these sectors. NGOs report migrant workers also 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 nonpayment of wages and physical abuse. Labor recruitment agents based in Seychelles will exploit migrant workers in labor trafficking, oftentimes with the assistance of a local Seychellois accomplice. Migrant workers often sign their employment contracts upon arrival in the Seychelles and frequently cannot read 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, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Seychelles
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