The Government of Aruba does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included providing anti-trafficking training for officials and continuing an awareness campaign. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Officials investigated fewer trafficking cases, did not report identifying any victims, and did not report prosecuting or convicting any trafficking cases in 2019. Authorities reported the influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees continued to impact Aruba’s efforts to combat trafficking; however, Venezuelans were also particularly vulnerable to trafficking, and authorities did not identify any victims and did not investigate trafficking crimes against them. In addition, officials conflated trafficking in persons with migrant smuggling, hindering the effectiveness of prosecution, prevention, and protection efforts. Therefore Aruba was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
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 commercial sex, 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 refugees. • 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. • Implement the 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.
Officials reported Venezuelan-related smuggling cases overwhelmed the country’s ability to investigate trafficking crimes commensurate with the likely scale of the phenomenon. Authorities reported investigating one potential trafficking case, compared to three investigations in 2018 and seven in 2017. Officials did not report prosecuting or convicting any trafficking cases in 2019, compared with one prosecution and one conviction under smuggling charges in 2018. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
The government provided anti-trafficking training to an unknown number of law enforcement officials through the Academy for Justice and Security. Following the training’s conclusion, officials issued graduates “Quick Reference Cards” (QRCs) that included relevant criminal articles; a list of trafficking indicators; standard operating procedures to use following identification of a potential trafficking case; and contact information to use when referring victims.
The government decreased protection efforts. Multi-disciplinary teams consisting of police, labor, and immigration officials continued to operate; however, the government did not report identifying any victims in 2019, compared with two in 2018, 71 in 2017, and nine in 2016. The anti-trafficking task force continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the most common signs of trafficking, which was used in concert with the government’s QRCs. Authorities reported the influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees overstaying their visas and working illegally—beginning in 2018—continued to impact 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; authorities restricted victims’ movement if their lives were threatened. The government reported finalizing a plan for the development of a multifunctional shelter with the capacity to house 20 victims in the Dutch Caribbean; officials stated the government will implement the plan in 2020. Authorities did not report whether any victims 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 to change employers if they were suspected of exploiting workers. 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 for the second consecutive year.
The government maintained minimal prevention efforts. Authorities continued to implement the 2018-2022 national action plan and made a request to parliament for an annual budget. Officials continued to raise awareness of trafficking and the hotline via social media, posters, and flyers in four languages. Authorities disseminated a 2018 documentary on trafficking, which 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 officials were trained. Officials continued procedures to screen and inform adult entertainers from Colombia, who were required to meet with consular officers to ensure the applicants knew their rights and work agreement before picking up their in-flight letter at the Kingdom of the Netherlands 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. In 2019, the Netherlands reportedly revoked its administrative support for the Counter Trafficking and Smuggling Taskforce and the National Counter Trafficking and Smuggling Coordinator.
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 in forced labor in Aruba’s service and construction industries. Due to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, the number of Venezuelans overstaying their visas continued to increase, leaving many with expired documentation and a corresponding increased risk for trafficking. Families, business owners, and criminals exploit some of these Venezuelans in forced labor in domestic service, construction, and commercial sex, respectively. Supermarket managers subject Chinese men and women to forced labor in grocery stores; business owners and families subject Indian men to forced labor in the retail sector and domestic service, respectively; and Arubans force Caribbean and South American women into domestic servitude. Women in regulated and unregulated commercial sex, domestic workers, and employees of small retail shops are most at risk of trafficking. Managers of Chinese-owned supermarkets and restaurants may subject children to sex trafficking and forced labor. There were reports foreigners visited Aruba to exploit minors in sex tourism.
• 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.