The government maintained minimal 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 younger than 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 reported initiating one trafficking-related investigation, which concluded when officials determined the case did not constitute a trafficking crime, in 2022. The government did not report any new prosecutions or convictions related to trafficking in 2022; this compared with one investigation and no prosecutions or convictions in 2021 and no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions in 2020. However, an appellate court upheld convictions against three traffickers found guilty of exploiting 42 women in sex trafficking in a 2019 ruling. The court’s decision to uphold the ruling revised the traffickers’ sentences (increasing them from 12, 24, and 36 months’ imprisonment to 17, 34, and 46 months’ imprisonment, respectively), increasing the total fines levied, and recommending partially suspended sentences in lieu of fully suspended sentences. The decision also cited concerns the traffickers remained involved in the exploitation of women in commercial sex, despite their prior convictions. Severe conflation of human trafficking and migrant smuggling obstructed attempts to investigate, prosecute, or convict traffickers; promoted harmful misconceptions about trafficking; and limited law enforcement officials’ capacity to recognize trafficking indicators and identify trafficking victims.
The Sint Maarten police force (KPSM) maintained a combined anti-human trafficking and anti-migrant smuggling unit (UMM), consisting of six officers, which worked closely with the public prosecutor’s office to investigate potential trafficking crimes. UMM operated without a dedicated budget and with limited staffing; the government reported Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMAR) embedded officers within UMM to mitigate staffing limitations. Observers reported the unit’s resources varied based on the relative prioritization of anti-trafficking or anti-smuggling operations within the government. UMM collaborated with KMAR, the joint Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, and other agencies, but the government did not formalize this coordination and observers reported interagency communication was inefficient. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes. The Kingdom of the Netherlands continued to fund a recurring anti-trafficking training opportunity for border protection officials. The government did not report any substantive collaboration with foreign governments on trafficking cases.