The government increased protection efforts. The government identified 327 trafficking victims, compared with identifying 216 victims in 2021 and NGOs identifying an additional 15 victims in 2021. The government screened 305 potential victims associated with new investigations for trafficking indicators, compared with screening 288 potential victims in 2021. Of the identified victims, 239 women, one man, and seven girls were exploited in sex trafficking; 24 women, 27 men, 12 girls, and 17 boys were exploited in labor trafficking. The sex trafficking victims included 49 Guyanese and 198 foreign victims from Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. The labor trafficking victims included seven Guyanese in-country, 72 foreign victims from Afghanistan, Brazil, and Venezuela, and one Guyanese in the United States.
The C-TIP Unit identified victims in cooperation with the GPF and provided services to victims. The C-TIP Unit had three staff members, which was insufficient to effectively undertake its work; MHSSS recruited but did not finalize hiring of additional staff by the end of the reporting period. The government allocated 44.15 million GYD ($205,349) to the C-TIP Unit in 2022, compared with a 2021 budget of $52.44 million GYD ($243,907) and $25.86 million GYD ($120,279) in 2020. In cooperation with an international organization and a foreign donor, authorities developed and began to use SOPs for victim identification that included special provisions for child victims; however, MHSSS did not finalize the SOPs. An international organization noted the government implemented the SOPs in a non-discriminatory manner. The government established a new victim screening and interviewing center.
The government reported it referred all identified victims to available services – the same as in the previous reporting period – and provided them assistance including shelter; free food and clothing; counseling; medical checkups; legal assistance including support for court appearances; training; job referrals; and repatriation and integration; other available services included employment opportunities, including small business support for foreign victims. The informal referral procedures used by the GPF, Ministry of Labor inspectors, and the Ministry of Natural Resources required these entities to involve the C-TIP Unit in all suspected trafficking cases. The government’s referral process assessed possible risks for the victim and assessed the victim’s needs. A voluntary reflection period for victims of up to 10 days followed, during which authorities did not interview victims. An international organization noted in the prior reporting period that police did not adhere to a requirement to give potential victims a reflection period, and in some cases, officials interviewed potential victims at police stations near the alleged perpetrators. Social welfare officers explained to victims their rights and conditions for cooperating with investigators. According to an NGO, authorities did not provide mental health and psycho-social support services in Spanish and the government lacked Spanish-language speakers across all agencies, which limited the government’s ability to engage and serve trafficking victims and vulnerable communities. NGOs also noted the government referred victims to them for various services, including shelter and interpretation, and international organizations offered assistance with translation and repatriation. For victims who chose not to stay in a shelter, the government provided direct financial and in-kind assistance. The government provided an annual subvention to the Legal Aid Clinic, a government-funded agency that provided free or subsidized legal advice and representation to people – including trafficking victims – who could not afford an attorney. NGOs noted the overall quality of care was suitable. The MHSSS monitored and evaluated its victim care services to ensure it administered them equitably but did not provide reports of these evaluations. The government facilitated the repatriation from abroad of one Guyanese victim, compared with repatriation of three victims in 2021.
The government operated and fully funded four shelters for adults and three children’s homes, which also housed child victims of other crimes. Authorities also evaluated and placed child trafficking victims in foster care. The shelters provided services to both male and female victims. The government also continued to subsidize two shelters run by NGOs for child and female victims that provided victims with the same services as the government-operated shelters. The government issued guidelines for shelters that received trafficking victims. The government provided a total of 72.9 million GYD ($339,070) for the two NGO shelters, an increase from 62.43 million GYD ($290,372) in 2021. The government also provided 1.2 million GYD ($5,581) for non-shelter assistance for victims and 4.14 million GYD ($19,256) for the rental and maintenance of its shelters. Shelter services were not time limited. The government reported 227 victims chose to stay in a shelter, compared with 32 in 2021; the government offered alternative housing for other victims, and social workers maintained contact with those victims who declined to stay in shelters. The government tested victims for COVID-19 prior to entry and gave them personal protective equipment, vaccines, and treatment free of charge. Some NGOs reported authorities did not allow victims to leave the shelters at will; the government encouraged NGO chaperones when there was a suspected security threat to a victim. The MHSSS and some NGOs reported government-run shelters were safe and the GPF or private security firms provided 24-hour security; in previous reporting periods, some NGOs reported government-run shelters did not have police or security guards and victims had fled shelters due to security concerns. Foreign and Guyanese victims received the same access to services.
Authorities did not arrest potential victims identified during law enforcement actions of entertainment venues. In the previous reporting period, press reports indicated potential Haitian victims illegally in the country may have been arrested, fined, and deported without screening for trafficking indicators; officials may not have screened sufficiently for trafficking indicators among other at-risk populations, including Cuban medical professionals. By the end of the reporting period, the government had not renewed a data sharing agreement with an international organization to collect data from at-risk populations, including migrants; the agreement remained in Cabinet for discussion. In July 2022, the government developed and publicized a new hand signal for victims to indicate situations of trafficking to officials.
The government reported it did not require victims, including foreigners, to participate in investigations or prosecutions in order to access services. The Witness Protection Act of 2018 provided a legal framework for the protection of witnesses in trafficking investigations and prosecutions; the government reported it received no requests from victims for such services. Courts held trafficking hearings and trials in person but closed them to the public and media to protect victims’ privacy and identities; the government strongly advised the media to avoid taking photos of victims. MHSSS provided transportation for victims. The government reported victims, including children and those outside the jurisdiction, could provide testimony via video or recorded statements to avoid re-traumatization and could speak with social workers, child protection officers, and forensic interviewers instead of police. The government reported two victims gave remote testimony in a labor trafficking case while in government care. The government reported remote testimony was more commonly used following the pandemic and could be used without citing legislative authority. Court procedures could not accommodate disabled victims; however, the government did not report identifying any victims with disabilities. Authorities offered victims psychological therapy before and after trial proceedings to help prevent re-traumatization and laws prohibited face-to-face confrontations between suspects and victims, thereby reducing further trauma to the victim. Authorities may have re-traumatized some victims during questioning. The government reported supporting eight victims who assisted in the investigation and prosecution of the traffickers.
Although the anti-trafficking act provided for restitution, it did not provide a mechanism to enforce these judgments. The government reported the appeal of a 2017 case in which courts required a convicted trafficker to pay restitution without imprisonment, a penalty inconsistent with the law, was discontinued following the death of the trafficker. The government applied for restitution to be paid to the survivor; the application was pending with the court at the end of the reporting period. The government reported draft legislation included a provision to allow victims to seek compensation through a civil suit. In cases where a victim was a material witness against a former employer, authorities allowed victims to obtain other employment or to leave the country pending trial proceedings. The government did not grant any foreign victims temporary residency status and work permits as it received no requests for such benefits during the reporting period. Deportation relief allowed a victim to remain in the country regardless of being in breach of immigration laws; authorities continued to allow Venezuelans to remain automatically. Authorities offered deportation relief to seven victims from Afghanistan and Cuba, compared with eight foreign victims in 2021. The government trained government officials and civil society representatives on the trafficking in persons law, victim identification and screening techniques, and the roles of the various actors on the Task Force.