The government 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 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, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions related to trafficking in 2020. In 2019, authorities investigated one case, prosecuted one suspected sex trafficker, and convicted one labor trafficker, which was the country’s first conviction under the anti-trafficking statute since 2012. Sint Maarten had a police unit assigned to combat trafficking in persons and human smuggling (the anti-HTHS unit), consisting of seven officers. In 2020, the government utilized law enforcement, including the anti-HTHS unit, to enforce movement restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The anti-HTHS unit operated with limited resources and without a dedicated budget; observers reported the unit frequently prioritized human smuggling over trafficking investigations. The anti-HTHS unit collaborated with other agencies, including the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and the joint Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, but this coordination was not formalized, and observers reported interagency communication was inefficient.
The government addressed trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling via joint institutions, limiting the resources available for anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Officials conflated the two crimes, hindering the effectiveness of prosecution, prevention, and protection efforts. The government reportedly held virtual training seminars related to trafficking in persons but did not report details on the topics covered or officials reached. The pandemic caused delay and cancelation of routine anti-trafficking training for law enforcement. The government did not report any substantive collaboration with foreign governments on trafficking cases.