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The Government of Suriname does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Suriname remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included more convictions of traffickers, including two police officers, and increasing investigations.  The government also established and funded a temporary shelter for victims, provided services to a potential victim, and cooperated with international organizations and an NGO to allow safe transit of a foreign victim to a third country.  Authorities trained police and signed law enforcement cooperation agreements with neighboring countries.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  Authorities identified fewer victims.  The government also did not sufficiently fund anti-trafficking efforts; did not adequately train judges; and did not adequately address gaps in immigration officials’ capacity to screen foreigners entering the country.

  • Continue efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers – including officials complicit in trafficking crimes – under the trafficking law and seek adequate penalties for guilty traffickers.
  • Provide trafficking victims legal assistance during trials when necessary.
  • Fully implement the victim identification and referral protocol and train officials in its use to identify trafficking victims, especially among at-risk groups, including Haitian migrants and Cuban medical workers.
  • Improve collaboration with local police, neighborhood police managers, local and tribal leaders, NGOs, survivors, foreign embassies, and other beneficial partners on anti-trafficking efforts.
  • Complete and disseminate SOPs to enable victims to automatically access social workers.
  • Provide adequate and dedicated funding for the NAP and government departments carrying out anti-trafficking activities, including monitoring of remote areas and screening of migrant workers and other visitors by immigration officials.
  • Investigate trafficking cases in private homes and online.
  • Provide shelter for victims outside of a police station and provide shelter for male and child victims.
  • Train judges at all levels of the judiciary in human trafficking, trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches, and the trafficking law, including sentences.
  • Consistently seek restitution for victims and consider maintaining a victim compensation fund.
  • Develop and execute a robust monitoring and evaluation framework, publish the results, and report on the hotline’s effectiveness. 

The government slightly increased prosecution efforts.  Article 334 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to nine years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($3,153) for offenses involving a victim 16 years of age or older, and up to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 SRD ($3,153) for those involving a victim younger than the age of 16.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  

Police initiated 15 investigations, two for sex trafficking, two for labor trafficking, and 11 for unspecified forms of trafficking, compared with eight investigations (six for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) of 19 individuals in 2021, and six investigations (four for sex trafficking and two for labor trafficking) in 2020.  The government prosecuted 16 suspected traffickers (five for sex trafficking, one for labor trafficking, and 10 for lesser charges), compared with prosecuting 17 suspected traffickers in 2021 and one alleged sex trafficker in 2020.  Authorities released eight alleged traffickers while their trials were pending; the country did not have a bail system.  Courts convicted three individuals under the trafficking law and ten individuals including two police officers under other laws, compared with no convictions in 2021 or 2020, and 18 in 2019.  Courts sentenced three traffickers (two Surinamese men for sex trafficking and one People’s Republic of China (PRC) national man for labor trafficking) to sentences of four to six years’ imprisonment.  The two police officers each received sentences of twelve months’ imprisonment and two years’ probation.  Courts also acquitted one police officer for complicity in child sex trafficking.  The police officers who committed crimes while on duty were fired.  In one case prosecuted for sex trafficking, a judge found the PRC national female suspect guilty of the lesser non-trafficking crimes of violating the Firearms Code and drug possession, and sentenced her to time served.  The judge ruled the prosecution had not proven trafficking took place because the victims knew they were entering into contracts with the suspect to work in commercial sex and willingly handed their paperwork to the suspect.  Officials noted the victims did not have legal assistance during the trial, which may have contributed to the outcome.  

The police’s eleven-officer Trafficking in Persons Unit (TIP Unit) exclusively handled human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases.  The TIP Unit was solely responsible for and cooperated on trafficking investigations with the Military Police’s immigration office, the Alien Affairs Office, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Police Youth Affairs Department.  The TIP Unit referred trafficking investigations to the Trafficking in Persons Desk (TIP Desk) at the Prosecutors’ Office, whose three members specialized in trafficking cases but were not solely dedicated to trafficking prosecutions. Observers and officials noted the TIP Unit and TIP Desk collaborated well.  The Court of Justice ruled on trafficking cases brought by the Prosecutors’ Office, but its members did not have a specialization in trafficking and also decided non-trafficking cases.  However, the Prosecutors’ Office noted that in practice one judge handled all trafficking cases and inconsistently convicted traffickers according to the definition of trafficking under the law.  Existing agency budgets paid for these ongoing anti-trafficking efforts, without a specific or additional allocation.  The TIP Unit and the TIP Desk lacked sufficient funding and resources and some officers required further training on investigative techniques and victim identification.  Although the TIP Unit was responsible for anti-trafficking efforts across the country, it had to rely on local police units in the interior of the country, which limited its efficacy in those regions.  The TIP Unit conducted inspections of mining areas in the interior; nightclubs, which reopened following the pandemic; and places where vulnerable migrants lived, in conjunction with the Foreign National Police.  Although the government lifted pandemic restrictions in March 2022, government personnel shortages continued due to sporadic COVID-19 infections.  The TIP Unit reported difficulties inspecting private homes where commercial sex took place, along with commercial sex advertised through social media.  

The government investigated potential trafficking crimes as part of an international operation against criminal migrant smuggling networks.  The government signed bilateral and regional law enforcement agreements with France (French Guiana), Brazil, and Guyana that included joint efforts to combat trafficking.  In January 2023, the TIP Unit trained neighborhood police managers directly responsible for community policing on victim identification, the link between trafficking and criminal organizations, and the dismantling of criminal organizations.  The TIP Unit also trained new police cadets on definitions and identification of human trafficking and the links between human trafficking and other crimes. 

The government maintained protection efforts.  The government identified one potential victim, compared with 15 victims in 2021 and one victim in 2020.  A foreign embassy identified one Dominican female sex trafficking victim.  The constituent agencies of the primary interdepartmental entity responsible for monitoring and implementing the NAP, the interagency Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Working Group,  implemented the First Response to the Victim of Trafficking in Persons Protocol.  The Protocol, which the TIP Desk provided to all police stations and police commanders, outlined procedures for interacting with potential trafficking victims, the process from identification to providing essential services, and the rights of victims. Observers noted authorities applied the Protocol to all potential victims regardless of background.  

The government provided shelter and medical services to one potential PRC female national victim as well as shelter to a Venezuelan victim identified in a previous reporting period.  The Ministry of Justice and Police referred victims to the Bureau of Victim Services for food, shelter, medical care, counseling, and other care; the government provided most victim care as no NGOs in the country specifically worked on human trafficking.  However, local and international NGOs provided services to a Venezuelan victim identified in a previous reporting period.  Foreign and national victims and those with disabilities had equal access to services.  Officials offered services to potential victims upon first encounter with them.  The TIP Unit began to draft SOPs to enable victims to automatically access services, including social workers from the Ministry of Social Affairs; observers noted significant bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining this assistance.  Government agencies did not have victim assistance funds specifically allocated but made resources available as needed from their general budgets.  A government-funded and operated trafficking shelter, housed in the same complex as a domestic violence shelter, closed due to the refusal of the domestic violence shelter staff to accept trafficking victims.  In response, the TIP Unit created an emergency shelter in November 2022 with space for up to eight individuals within its office building, a former residence.  The shelter provided services only to female adult victims.  The police funded the shelter from its own budget.  Authorities did not limit victims’ time in the shelter; victims chose to enter the shelter and left at will.  Authorities allowed foreign victims to stay with persons they knew and arranged to remain in contact with the TIP Unit.  Authorities did not require victim cooperation with law enforcement in order to receive services.  Authorities also did not require victims to participate in trials to receive services from the government.  There were no specialized shelter services for child or adult male trafficking victims.  Authorities allowed children who did not want to return to their homes either to enter a childcare facility or stay with a foster family.  Special counseling was available for child victims along with their families.  Victims could apply for temporary or permanent residency whether or not they assisted with trials, although there were no reported cases of victims using either of these provisions.  

Victim-witnesses could move freely within the country or travel abroad.  The government did not offer a special visa category for victims; authorities treated returning victim-witnesses the same as other travelers.  Police provided protection to victim-witnesses, but authorities did not protect victims’ identities during trials.  Authorities provided counseling and some legal support to victims in judicial processes and strongly encouraged victims to participate.  Courts could obtain testimony from victims in the early stages of judicial investigations in case victims were not available during the trial process, although this could weaken testimony in cases where authorities did not provide victims time for recovery and reflection before giving testimony.  Courts allowed virtual testimony, but it was not commonly used during the reporting period; testifying from a foreign country was not possible.  The TIP Unit and the TIP Desk reported a need for victims to have legal representation such as a public defender during trials to better represent their interests and strengthen legal cases.  Victims could speak directly to a counselor or a member of the Prosecutors’ Office instead of to the police.  In the case of foreign victims, prosecutors usually used a victim’s initial report as a formal criminal complaint and testimony in the case, as victims often returned to their countries of origin before completion of the trial; in almost all cases courts lost contact once the victim departed the country.  Victims had the right to testify after providing an initial statement and/or after receiving counseling.  The defense attorney also continued to have the right to question the victim.  Victims had the right to seek compensation through a civil process, though no such case has ever been filed.  The government did not maintain a victim compensation fund. 

The government reported police and immigration officials screened at-risk populations, including migrants and those in commercial sex, for trafficking, normally prior to detention or arrest.  The TIP Unit, the Prosecutors’ Office, the Directorate of National Security, and the Military Police – in charge of immigration services – coordinated to screen for trafficking indicators among those arriving at the international airport.  The government did not repatriate some victims desiring to return to their home countries and airlines could refuse to return passengers denied entry into the country, making them vulnerable to trafficking.  The TIP Unit collaborated with a domestic NGO, which also provided funding, and two international organizations to relocate a foreign victim to a safe third country.  Outside observers reported the process for collaboration between the TIP Unit and embassies on victim support was cumbersome and bureaucratic, impacting the response time of embassies to provide essential support to their citizens.   

The government slightly increased prevention efforts.  The government adopted a new annual NAP for 2022-2023.  The TIP Working Group, coordinated government efforts, and making recommendations to the government, including on legislation.  The TIP Working Group, coordinated by the Director of Operations of the Ministry of Justice and Police, reported to the Minister of Justice and Police on the activities of the NAP.  Observers reported the TIP Working Group effectively resolved issues, such as the following: approving budgets and action plans; communicating across the entire government; identifying resources; and collecting data from the Prosecutors’ Office and the Court of Justice.  The Director of Operations of the Ministry of Justice and Police chaired the Working Group.  The Working Group met regularly and coordinated successfully.   The government did not seek input from survivors or NGOs in drafting the annual NAP or for other laws or policies; the government did incorporate input from international organizations.  The government did not allocate funding specifically for trafficking included in the NAP; funding for such activities came from the overall budgets of the respective agencies, with the Ministry of Justice and Police undertaking the most activities.  Lack of sufficient funding due to generally low funds and budget crises impacted the ability of the TIP Working Group to implement the activities included in the NAP.  

The government continued to operate a 24-hour anti-trafficking hotline in the interagency National Command Center.  The hotline primarily operated in Dutch, English, and Sranan Tongo.  The TIP Unit created two social media telephone numbers in February 2023 to report trafficking cases.  The government did not keep statistics on calls or victims identified through the hotline or via social media.  The government made informational flyers and brochures in different languages with the anti-trafficking hotline number and posted the flyers at locations throughout the country.  In July 2022, the TIP Unit launched a website in Dutch and English that provided information on and differences between trafficking and migrant smuggling, gave visitors the ability to report suspect situations, and detailed updated information on the TIP Unit’s activities.  In August 2022, the TIP Unit provided awareness sessions on trafficking and migrant smuggling to local and Maroon Aluku tribal leadership, allowing the TIP Unit to establish relationships with these groups.  In August 2022, the TIP Unit held an awareness session for representatives of a general humanitarian NGO on trafficking and migrant smuggling.  The TIP Unit launched a public awareness campaign in schools in March 2023.  The government did not conduct formal research on trafficking during the reporting period.  The government did not publicly post an assessment of its anti-trafficking efforts but made the information available upon request.  

Labor laws prohibited employers, recruiters, and labor agents from charging workers recruitment fees, confiscating workers’ passports or travel documents, switching contracts without workers’ consent, or withholding wages as a means of keeping workers in a state of compelled service.  Labor laws required all employment agencies to be licensed before recruiting either national or foreign employees, and they had to receive permission from the Ministry of Labor before entering into work mediation with employees.  The government reported the Labor Inspectorate regularly checked the paperwork of foreign workers vulnerable to labor trafficking at job sites and fined employers for violations; half of inspectors received training on child trafficking in previous reporting periods. The Maritime Authority, the military, the maritime police, and the Coast Guard continued inspections of vessels entering the country, to identify suspicious activities, including trafficking and the TIP Unit continued weekly patrols with the Maritime Police.   Additionally, the TIP Unit and the Alien Police conducted inspections of clubs and other establishments where migrant workers were known to work and inspected paperwork; in December 2022, the police issued a warning to workplaces to ensure paperwork was in order and for migrant workers to have their paperwork on them.  Observers noted gaps in government policies and regulations, as well as a lack of oversight and implementation, enabled traffickers to exploit victims.  Various media outlets reported groups of migrants entered the country without proper paperwork.  Observers noted the government’s elimination of tourist visas in July 2022 to attract tourists hindered immigration officials’ ability to screen for trafficking and hindered pre-screening.  In September 2022, media reported senior-level government confusion over the whereabouts of 160 Haitians allegedly in the country to support the agricultural sector.  The government initiated a review of its visa policy and the review was pending at the end of the reporting period.  The government did not report measures to screen Cuban medical workers residing in the country for trafficking indicators and did not publicize the terms of their contracts.  Most inspections were unannounced, but the law did not allow labor inspectors to inspect private homes or farms, and police had to be escorted and have a special warrant for any inspections on private property.  The government reported fining businesses up to 250 SRD ($7.89) for each foreign worker employed without having the proper registration paperwork.  Labor inspectors also screened for trafficking indicators, but did not report identifying any labor trafficking cases through such measures during its increased inspections.  No inspectors were solely dedicated to child labor, but the government trained all inspectors on identifying child labor and handling of suspected cases.  The government warned businesses against hiring foreign workers without proper documentation and provided information on employment scams and fraudulent job offerings to businesses and workers.  Limited unemployment benefits only went to citizens.  The TIP Working Group trained newly appointed diplomats on human trafficking.  The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.  The government did not make efforts to reduce participation in international and domestic child sex tourism. 

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Suriname, and traffickers exploit victims from Suriname abroad.  Reported cases of trafficking in Suriname’s sparsely populated and remote jungle interior, which constitutes approximately 80 percent of the country, have increased in recent years; limited government presence in the interior renders the full scope of the problem unknown.  Weak immigration policies, difficulty in controlling Suriname’s borders, and the draw of the gold and timber trade have led to an influx of immigrants from different countries entering Suriname legally and remaining in country after their legal stay expires.  These persons become particularly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking.  Traffickers target the increasing influx of migrants, some of whom are undocumented, into and through Suriname, particularly those from Haiti and Venezuela, as well as those from Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, the PRC, Africa, and South-Central Asia.  Migrant women and girls are especially at risk for sex trafficking in Suriname, including in brothels, massage parlors, hair salons, and illegal gold mining camps in Suriname’s interior.  Individuals involved in commercial sex advertised in newspapers and social media are also at risk for trafficking.  Adult and child migrant workers in agriculture, retail shops, construction, and on fishing boats off Suriname’s coast are at risk of trafficking, as are children working in agriculture, small construction, gold mines, and informal urban sectors.  Given their irregular status, migrant groups avoid seeking assistance from the authorities for fear of criminalization or deportation, making them vulnerable to traffickers.  In March 2020, authorities signed an agreement with the Cuban government to allow 120 Cuban medical workers to help combat the pandemic; 51 Cubans came to the country in 2021, joining approximately 50 already in the country.  Following their departure, in June 2022, a group of 22 Cuban medical workers arrived in the country.  Cuban medical workers may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.  PRC national-run associations, and allegedly some Hong Kong traffickers, recruit and exploit PRC national immigrants in sex and labor trafficking in the mining, service, and construction sectors.  Surinamese women in neighboring countries are at risk of sex trafficking.  Traffickers may transport victims through routes in Suriname’s interior that bypass official checkpoints.  There are reports of corruption and local official complicity in trafficking crimes that may impede anti-trafficking efforts.  While traffickers are predominantly men, authorities have also prosecuted and convicted women traffickers.  Individuals engaged in commercial sex online, in private homes, or in poorly protected clubs in the interior remained following the lifting of pandemic restrictions in March 2022, increasing their vulnerability.  Organizations representing the HIV positive and LGBTQI+ communities also reported these groups became particularly at risk as they faced marginalization and increased poverty due to the pandemic.  The pandemic increased the trafficking risk for lower-skilled individuals unable to find work and deteriorating economic conditions following the pandemic have driven more adults into commercial sex to earn additional income and have likely increased the number of child trafficking victims, including familial trafficking.  In January 2023, the government reported that 5,000 children, mostly in the interior of Suriname, did not return to school in order to help their parents following the end of pandemic restrictions; these children are vulnerable to trafficking.  Although there were no reports of child sex tourism during the current reporting period, it may have occurred.

U.S. Department of State

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