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CURAÇAO: Tier 2 Watch List†

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 drafting new guidelines for victim identification and referral and providing services to a victim and the victim’s spouse. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. Authorities prosecuted fewer traffickers, did not report identifying any victims, and continued to condition foreign victims’ access to services, including residency, on cooperation with law enforcement in cases against their traffickers. Lack of funding remained a primary obstacle to robust anti-trafficking efforts. Officials conflated human trafficking with migrant smuggling, hindering the effectiveness of prosecution, prevention, and protection efforts. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Curaçao was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore Curaçao remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.


Provide potential victims, including those who choose not to cooperate with law enforcement in cases against their traffickers, with services and legal alternatives to deportation, especially where victims face harm or abuse in their home country. • Provide foreign victims access to health insurance, which victims must have to apply for temporary residency, and medical services. • Train detention center staff on victim identification procedures and routinely screen detained migrants for trafficking indicators. • Enforce the 30-day reflection period and refer victims to protection services without requiring them first to commit to assist a criminal investigation. • Improve coordination and information-sharing with anti-trafficking counterparts across the Kingdom of the Netherlands. • Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, sentencing them to significant prison terms. • Increase proactive victim identification among vulnerable populations, such as migrants and individuals in commercial sex. • 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 full implementation of the national anti-trafficking action plan. • Provide targeted resources and training for local officials to conduct outreach to vulnerable communities through awareness campaigns on workers’ rights, trafficking indicators, and available resources.


The government slightly decreased 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 younger than 16. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The organized crime unit (DGC) within the Curaçao Police Force was the lead agency for law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. Authorities initiated one investigation in 2020, compared with one in 2019 and four in 2018. Officials did not report any ongoing investigations from previous years, although they stipulated there was investigative activity related to ongoing prosecutions. The government did not initiate prosecution of any alleged traffickers in 2020, compared with prosecuting four alleged traffickers in one case in 2019 and none in 2018. Authorities also reported four ongoing prosecutions related to one labor trafficking case initiated in 2017; officials expected the case to return to trial in 2021. There was one new arrest associated with the ongoing case; authorities detained one suspect in the Netherlands and transported him to Curaçao to face charges. Judges convicted five traffickers (three for sex trafficking and two for sex and labor trafficking) in two cases in 2020, compared with eight traffickers in 2019 and zero in 2018. The government reported it secured two of these convictions on appeal. The courts prescribed sentences ranging from 12 months’ to three years’ imprisonment, with conditions. The courts reexamined on appeal the cases of 10 accused traffickers; although officials cautioned further appeals could affect the courts’ findings, judges reaffirmed the convictions of two traffickers, newly convicted two more, and postponed the review of six convictions until 2021. Law enforcement officials reported decreased case volume for all crimes due to reduced investigative activity during lockdowns to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic; during these spans, law enforcement helped to enforce movement restrictions. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, authorities reported two active cases—one ongoing prosecution and one appeal of a 2019 conviction—involved complicit officials, both policemen. In the first case, authorities released the complicit official from pretrial detention upon payment of a $3,500 fine to the victim; criminal proceedings against the officer were set to resume in May 2020 but were delayed due to lockdowns. Courts expected to hear appeals in 2021 in the second case involving a complicit official, a police officer convicted in 2019 and initially sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for sex trafficking.

Law enforcement suffered from generalized budget and personnel shortages and did not have a dedicated anti-trafficking budget; instead, officials requested funding from the central Ministry of Justice budget on a case-by-case basis. Some officials reported the lack of funding and lengthy request process disincentivized investigation of trafficking crimes. The pandemic caused discontinuation of anti-trafficking training for law enforcement between March 2020 and September 2020; the government did not report funding law enforcement training during the reporting period. However, an unspecified number of law enforcement officials attended four trainings funded by international organizations and foreign governments. The government reported it lacked the resources to provide virtual training opportunities during the pandemic. The government continued to address human trafficking and migrant smuggling with the same resources and procedures, frequently prosecuting traffickers for smuggling crimes; officials often conflated the two crimes.


The government maintained inadequate protection efforts. Authorities did not report identifying any victims in 2020, compared with three sex trafficking victims in 2019 and 44 victims in 2018. Officials did not regularly perform proactive screenings among vulnerable groups, such as individuals in commercial sex, construction, supermarkets, and catering, despite a Kingdom-wide requirement to do so. Similarly, the government did not report screening vulnerable migrant groups. In practice, assistance for victims was contingent upon cooperation with law enforcement efforts to prosecute traffickers. The government’s procedures outlined standard services for victims of trafficking, including shelter, meals, medical attention, and psychological services, and assigned an agency to provide each service. However, the agencies responsible lacked dedicated funds to furnish these services; consequently, service provision was inconsistent, and the costs often fell to the DGC or international organizations. In 2020, the government provided shelter and healthcare services to one victim identified in a previous reporting period and the victim’s spouse, compared with providing such services to 12 victims in the previous reporting period; the victim continued to cooperate in the trial against his trafficker. Trafficking victims willing to participate in the trial against their traffickers could apply for a temporary residence permit valid for six months. Officials could renew the permit if the criminal investigation or prosecution of the trafficker continued; however, residence permits valid beyond the conclusion or dismissal of these criminal proceedings would be canceled. In practice, funding shortfalls delayed processing of permit applications, creating uncertainty for foreign trafficking victims otherwise vulnerable to deportation. Foreign victims who did not participate in investigations against their traffickers were not eligible for temporary residence permits and could not legally remain in Curaçao; the government sometimes deported victims and potential victims present in the country illegally, including Venezuelan nationals. Observers reported the pandemic likely contributed to fewer deportations during the reporting period. Through a separate administrative process, victims were eligible to apply for temporary work permits; however, many victims could not afford the costs related to the application.

In 2020, the government worked with an international organization to develop a comprehensive handbook for victim identification and referral procedures; although the government approved the new procedures, it had not yet implemented or trained relevant officials on them. Under the new system, officials would refer all potential trafficking victims to the victim support bureau (SSHC) and the DGC. The government did not operate any specialized shelters for trafficking victims. The government could place a limited number of trafficking victims—adult women and their children up to 12 years of age—in an NGO shelter for victims of domestic violence that could accommodate up to eight individuals; in 2020, an increase in domestic violence cases meant the shelter had reduced capacity to accommodate trafficking victims. The government could refer child trafficking victims to guardianship councils for placement in boarding school or foster care; the government did not assist any child trafficking victims in 2020. Authorities reported difficulty arranging housing for male victims due to budget constraints; the government did not report any shelters for male victims. Authorities required victims to check in with shelter staff when leaving the facility. When existing shelter facilities reached maximum capacity, the government placed victims in short-term government-funded accommodations. Under the 2017-2021 national action plan (NAP), victims could reflect for 30 days before deciding to participate in the trial against their trafficker; however, the government did not report implementing the reflection period in 2019 or 2020. The government reported approximately 8,000 Dutch guilder ($4,490) in trafficking victim assistance expenditures in 2020. The SSHC, which supported victims of all crimes, operated with a budget of 307,000 guilder ($172,470). Foreign victims were entitled to similar care as domestic victims but did not have access to publicly funded medical insurance; adequate medical insurance was a requirement to apply for the temporary residence permit. Kingdom evaluators determined officials inconsistently informed victims of their rights as trafficking victims, especially foreign victims, and lacked written resources enumerating these rights in common languages.


The government maintained insufficient prevention efforts. The national coordinator nominally led the interagency anti-trafficking task force and oversaw the government’s efforts to combat trafficking; however, the coordinator had no dedicated budget in this capacity and had other full-time duties. The government continued to use the 2017-2021 NAP. In 2020, the government did not report any new or ongoing awareness activities; it attributed the absence of programming to the pandemic and general funding limitations. However, the national coordinator continued to participate in radio and television programming. The SSHC operated a victim assistance hotline but did not report receiving any trafficking tips during the reporting period; calls to the hotline were not toll-free. Due to health concerns during the pandemic, the government closed the open-air brothel Campo Alegre in March 2020. The government made efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts through its public awareness campaign informing the public that women, especially foreign women, employed in Curaçaoan bars could be sex trafficking victims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to coordinate with airport administration to monitor ticketing and passenger logs for patterns indicative of human trafficking; when observed, the government could institute additional checkpoints, including visa requirements, to reduce trafficking risk.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Curaçao. Undocumented migrants in Curaçao, especially the substantial population of Venezuelan nationals, are vulnerable to both sex and labor trafficking. In 2020, movement restrictions prevented migrants from departing Curaçao, creating new trafficking risks for migrants who lost work during the economic downturn associated with the pandemic; traffickers may have exploited some of these individuals, taking advantage of their vulnerable position. Officials reported traffickers’ activity increased during the pandemic, especially individual traffickers acting independently. Traffickers exploit women and girls from Curaçao, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, among other countries, in sex trafficking. Bar owners recruit women and girls to work as waitresses or ‘trago girls’, and subsequently force them into commercial sex. Traffickers exploit migrant workers from other Caribbean countries, South America, China, and India in domestic servitude, as well as forced labor in construction, landscaping, minimarkets, retail, and restaurants. Venezuelan migrants are vulnerable to exploitation by Spanish-speakers purporting to offer employment assistance in Curaçao. Recent research suggests traffickers in Curaçao may exploit more domestic and more male victims than previously understood.


Curaçao is a semi-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. However, the Kingdom is an important contributor to the Government of Curaçao’s anti-trafficking efforts.

U.S. Department of State

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