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GUYANA (Tier 1)

The Government of Guyana fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Guyana remained on Tier 1. These efforts included convicting three traffickers; identifying more victims and referring them to services; consistently implementing a 10-day reflection period, including shelter for victims; raising awareness in Indigenous languages; expanding the inclusivity of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons (the Task Force); and initiating a program to screen children in situations of homelessness. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it neither increased investigations and prosecutions nor formally approved the NAP. The government also did not adequately oversee recruitment agencies or adequately screen for trafficking victims in the interior of the country.

  • Increase prosecutions and convictions in sex and labor trafficking cases and pursue them to the fullest extent possible under the Combating Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005, including for cases involving child victims.
  • Increase the number of Spanish-speaking officials supporting anti-trafficking efforts.
  • Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and ensure any such fees are paid by employers.
  • Complete a review of existing legislation on labor recruitment and increase the number of labor inspectors.
  • Hold convicted traffickers, including complicit officials, accountable by seeking adequate penalties involving significant prison terms.
  • Formally approve the 2021-2025 NAP.
  • Enforce restitution judgments.
  • Reduce the reliance on victims to serve as witnesses in prosecutions.
  • Ensure security for victims, especially those residing in government shelters, and their relatives.
  • Formally approve and implement victim SOPs and fund specialized victim services, particularly for child, adult male, and Venezuelan victims in their native language, including for indigenous populations.
  • Proactively screen vulnerable populations, including Haitian migrants and Cuban medical workers, for trafficking indicators, refer them to services, and ensure potential victims are not deported without screening.
  • Undertake systemic monitoring of anti-trafficking efforts and publish the results.

The government increased prosecution efforts. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three years to life imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government initiated investigations in 28 cases involving 25 suspects (20 for sex trafficking and five for labor trafficking), compared with 38 cases involving 57 suspects (46 for sex trafficking and 11 for labor trafficking) in 2021 and 31 cases (23 for sex trafficking and eight for labor trafficking) in 2020. The government did not report continuing any investigations from previous reporting periods. The government initiated prosecutions of four alleged traffickers, one female for sex trafficking and one female for labor trafficking under the anti-trafficking act and two suspected traffickers under other laws, compared with initiating prosecutions of three suspected traffickers (one for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) in 2021 and one prosecution for sex trafficking in 2020. Authorities ended the prosecution of one alleged sex trafficker following the suspect’s death. Authorities did not continue any prosecutions from previous reporting periods, compared with continuing prosecutions against two defendants in 2021. Courts convicted three traffickers. Courts convicted one female sex trafficker in a case involving an adult female victim under the anti-trafficking act and sentenced the trafficker to three years in prison. In February 2023, a court convicted a man of two counts of labor trafficking in a 2018 case with a sentence of three years’ imprisonment for each count and restitution for one victim in the sum of 2.13 million Guyanese dollars (GYD) ($9,893). In March 2023, media reported the conviction of a Guyanese man in a 2021 labor trafficking case of two Jamaican nationals. The court sentenced the trafficker to four years’ imprisonment on each of the two counts of trafficking to run concurrently; one additional one-year jail sentence on a count of withholding the foreign nationals’ passports; a 200,000 GYD ($930) fine; and 6.3 million GYD ($29,302) in restitution to the victims. Courts acquitted a fourth suspected trafficker. Courts did not convict any traffickers in 2021 and convicted one trafficker for each of the three years prior. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes. The government reported it discontinued the appeal of a former police officer convicted of sex trafficking and released on bail in 2016 following the death of the suspect; the government’s application for restitution for the victim was still pending at the end of the reporting period.

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) Counter-Trafficking Unit exclusively investigated trafficking cases and did not have a dedicated budget. The GPF Cyber Crime Unit monitored for online trafficking crimes and referred them to the GPF Counter-Trafficking Unit. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) prosecuted felonies, such as murder and rape, at High Court trials, and the GPF Prosecution Unit managed preliminary hearings into felony crimes – including trafficking crimes – in the Magistrates Court. The GPF prosecution unit also did not have a dedicated budget. Police prosecutors from the GPF Prosecution Unit were not licensed attorneys, but some had law degrees and received specialized training in legal procedure. The government advised GPF prosecutors to request the advice and guidance of the DPP to strengthen cases for prosecution before initiating legal proceedings, but the government reported this was not often done.

The anti-trafficking act required witness testimony of victims in order to prosecute trafficking cases. The DPP, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security (MHSSS), and NGOs noted some victims may have declined to participate in prosecutions after receiving a pay-off from the trafficker, because of familiarity and trust built with the trafficker, or due to income received through commercial sex that earned a minimum of 60,000 GYD ($280) per day while the national wage was 2,766 GYD ($13) per day. The government reported it could not guarantee the safety of victim-witnesses and their relatives. The police also lacked sufficient resources for non-English speaking victim-witnesses. Observers noted limited government presence in the interior of the country to consistently and sufficiently conduct law enforcement actions and monitor establishments, screen for victims, and observe trafficking trends. The judicial process remained slow, with trafficking and other major criminal trials taking an average of two years and up to five years to complete due to shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, allegations of bribery, poor case tracking, and delays in preparing cases for trial. The government reported the GPF Counter-Trafficking Unit and other anti-trafficking staff received training on the use of body cameras, digital evidence, intelligence, and other technological means to reduce reliance on victim-witnesses. The GPF trained new recruits, immigration officers, defense officials, probation officers, the fire service, officials in other government ministries, and prosecutors on the anti-trafficking act, investigative techniques, intelligence gathering, forensic interviewing, victim identification and referral, general indicators of trafficking, and the role of MHSSS’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Unit. The government reported it cooperated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and INTERPOL to intercept and deport from Guyana two PRC nationals suspected of trafficking and migrant smuggling.

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.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Task Force, co-chaired by the Minister of Home Affairs and MHSSS, coordinated national interagency anti-trafficking efforts. During the reporting period, two additional government agencies, the Indigenous People’s Affairs Commission and the GPF-Intelligence Unit, joined the Task Force. The Task Force also included four NGOs and Spanish and Chinese bilingual support staff. The government consulted with trafficking survivors and LGBTQI+ groups as it formulated and implemented its anti-trafficking efforts. The technical arm of the Task Force included representatives (technical advisors, legal assistants, social workers) of the ministers who sat on the task force and suggested anti-trafficking activities and engagements, including trainings. Observers reported the Task Force was effective in coordinating anti-trafficking efforts. The Task Force met monthly and held emergency meetings, while the action sub-committee met bi-weekly to review operations.

The government continued to implement a NAP for 2021-2025; however, the NAP remained pending with the Cabinet for final approval at the end of the reporting period. The government allocated approximately 68.7 million GYD ($316,279) for the implementation of activities under the NAP in 2022, compared with 18.5 GYD ($86,047) in 2021. The government recruited but did not finalize hiring of a new interpreter, a new investigator, and a new monitoring and evaluation officer for the Task Force Secretariat. The Task Force implemented a code of conduct of ethical standards for its members, including law enforcement officers.

According to authorities, law enforcement officials and social workers screened all individuals for trafficking indicators during law enforcement actions of adult entertainment venues for commercial sex violations. In September 2022, the government began screening children begging at stoplights, and those in situations of homelessness, for indicators of exploitation – including trafficking – and provided them with services. The government screened other vulnerable groups, including migrants and arrivals at ports of entry, for trafficking. The government added two immigration offices at key transit points on the border with Venezuela who screened for trafficking indicators. The government operated three 24/7 hotlines, two in English and one in Spanish, to report human trafficking. The government reported an increase in Spanish-language calls. The government conducted outreach to vulnerable migrant communities to raise awareness about the Spanish hotline. The hotlines received 20 calls, of which nine led to the identification of victims, their referral to care, and criminal investigations of traffickers; this compared with 21 calls in the previous reporting period. Observers noted cell phone coverage in many mining areas was poor, limiting the efficacy of the hotline among this vulnerable community. The Task Force conducted research into the primary causes of trafficking in the country and the correlation between trafficking and migrant smuggling; a report of the findings remained pending at the end of the reporting period.

The Task Force, occasionally in coordination with GPF, planned and executed several sensitization and awareness sessions with: Indigenous communities and hotel owners in rural areas; stakeholders in the mining, forestry, hotel, bar and restaurant, and construction sectors; community leaders; private security firms; parents, teachers, and school welfare and guidance counselors; barbershops; media; NGOs; call centers; the National AIDS program secretariat; and medical professionals. In addition, the government conducted awareness campaigns for the general population on topics including indicators of human trafficking and the reporting and referral processes. The government also funded public service announcements and made in-kind contributions to the awareness campaigns of NGOs and international organizations. The government undertook extensive consultations to ensure the content of the awareness campaign portrayed a diverse cultural background. The government compiled awareness materials in Indigenous languages to accompany the materials in English, Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese. The Task Force collaborated with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat to conduct awareness-raising sessions in the country. The government reported it reduced demand for commercial sex by educating workers in the extractive and hotel industries about the illegality of commercial sex; observers noted the government rarely enforced these laws. The Sexual Offences Act criminalized sexual contact with a child younger than 16 years old. The government reported there were no reports of child sex tourism in the country or by its nationals abroad during the reporting period.

The Recruitment of Workers Act and the Employment Exchanges Act provided the legislative framework for labor recruitment, but the government did not have any laws prohibiting employers, recruiters, or labor agents from charging workers recruitment fees, switching contracts without the workers’ consent, or withholding wages as a means of keeping workers in a state of compelled service, despite an increase in in-country recruitment agencies targeting the workers for the country’s burgeoning oil sector. The government initiated a review of existing legislation during the reporting period to improve the regulation and registration of recruitment agencies. Recruiters targeted primarily Guyanese workers. The government provided free recruitment services to foreign and domestic workers. The government collaborated with an international organization to provide labor, health and safety, and recruitment officers an ethical recruitment workshop. Migrant workers who wished to change employers needed to first obtain a new work permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs through one of two ways: either the previous employer had to officially inform the Ministry of Home Affairs Immigration Support Services that the employee was no longer employed and request the cancellation of the work permit or visa before the new employer could submit an application, or a new employer could request to cancel the previous work permit or visa upon demonstration of a new employment or sponsorship offer. The government reported the latter method provided protection against the exploitation of migrant workers. Labor officers trained on trafficking frequently conducted impromptu investigations of work sites and business premises in the mining and logging districts and in the capital; the government did not report identifying any victims through labor inspections. The Labor Ministry trained labor officials on child labor. However, observers noted the fines for labor violations were low and the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to adequately carry out inspections. The government reported it had a NAP for the Elimination of Child Labor 2019-2025 to combat child forced labor.

As reported over the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Guyana, and traffickers exploit victims from Guyana abroad. Traffickers exploit victims in labor trafficking in mining, agriculture, forestry, domestic service, and in shops. The government reported 78 percent of traffickers in 2020 were men, predominantly Guyanese; 14 percent of traffickers were from Venezuela, while less than 3 percent were Dominican and Haitian. NGOs reported traffickers are often middle-aged men who own or operate nightclubs. Some traffickers are also family members of the victims. Migrants, young people from rural and Indigenous communities, children, and those without education are the most at risk for human trafficking. Traffickers exploit women and children from Guyana, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Suriname, and Venezuela in sex trafficking in mining communities in the interior and urban areas. Media in previous reporting periods made allegations about the discriminatory nature of the government’s treatment of Haitian migrants as compared with those of other nationalities, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. An NGO reported in 2021 an increasing number of young, Indigenous girls are being taken from Bolivar state in Venezuela to Guyana where traffickers exploit them in commercial sex. NGOs also reported trafficking networks operated by illegal armed groups known as “sindicatos” in Delta Amacuro state in Venezuela; NGOs reported these groups lead members of the Indigenous Warao community into Guyana to work long shifts in illegal mines with no medical care despite experiencing curable common health issues. Indigenous Warao women are recruited to work as cooks in the mines but are often forced into commercial sex or exploited by illegal armed groups. While both sex trafficking and labor trafficking occur in remote interior mining communities, limited government presence in the country’s interior renders the full extent of trafficking there unknown. The government reported most Cuban workers in the country were medical doctors who were paid by the Cuban government, while the government provided housing and airfare. Some Cuban nationals working in Guyana may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Traffickers exploit Guyanese nationals in sex and labor trafficking in Suriname, Uruguay, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries.

U.S. Department of State

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