Sint Maarten Tier 2 Ranking in U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report 2014, But Progress Being Made
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Sint Maarten Tier 2 Ranking in U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report 2014, But Progress Being Made

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WASHINGTON DC/SINT MAARTEN - St. Maarten is a source, transit, and destination for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.  There are indications that some foreign migrant women in St. Maarten’s sex trade are subjected to debt bondage. Women and girls from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and other countries in the region are the most vulnerable to sex trafficking. Other nationalities that are vulnerable to sex trafficking include women from Russia and Eastern Europe.

This information was released on Friday, June 20, 2014 in the annual 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report that the United States Department of State compiles annually about countries around the globe.  Tier 2 ranking is an indication that the country is not meeting the minimum standards of fighting human trafficking, but is striving to do so, and has results that you can point to to show that it’s doing a decent job, but could definitely improve.  Tier 3 ranking is a country that is not responding sufficiently to its trafficking problem, isn’t taking those affirmative steps forward.

The Netherlands is a Tier 1 country.  Tier 1 is a country that’s actually meeting the minimum standards of fighting human trafficking. The report says that the Netherlands is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. A significant number of underage Dutch residents continued to be subjected to sex trafficking in the country. Identified trafficking victims primarily originated from within the Netherlands and from abroad, including from Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam in 2013; victims are also from other countries in Africa, Europe, and South and East Asia. Women and children are primarily subjected to sex trafficking, and men and boys are subjected to various forms of forced labor, including in the maritime sector, agriculture, horticulture, catering, food processing, and cleaning. Some victims were forced to commit crimes, including illegal narcotics trafficking. Domestic workers employed in the Netherlands remain vulnerable to forced labor, including by foreign diplomats posted there. Groups vulnerable to trafficking include unaccompanied children seeking asylum, women with dependent residence status obtained through fraudulent or forced marriages, women recruited in Africa and Eastern Europe, and East Asian women working in massage parlors.

The Government of St. Maarten does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the report points out; however; it is making significant efforts to do so. The government established a national reporting bureau on human trafficking, conducted an awareness campaign, and launched an ant trafficking hotline in 2013. While the government initiated new trafficking investigations, it did not hold any trafficking offenders accountable during the year. Officials in St. Maarten did not proactively identify trafficking victims nor refer any potential victims for care. The government’s lack of victim identification in St. Maarten—despite a very large vulnerable population of illegal migrants and foreign women in prostitution, including women employed by licensed brothels—significantly hampered the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.

The government sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. St. Maarten’s June 2012 penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through articles 2:239-245 and prescribes penalties ranging from four to 24 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government initiated two sex trafficking investigations against suspected traffickers in 2013, the same number of investigations as in the previous year. It did not launch any new prosecutions or convict any trafficking defendants in 2013; in the previous year, a defendant was convicted for sex trafficking at a regulated brothel.

The government demonstrated notable progress in its ant trafficking prevention efforts during the year. In September

2013, it established a National Reporting Bureau, with a staff of four, as the lead agency on human smuggling and trafficking. This Bureau launched an anti-trafficking hotline and awareness campaign in October of 2013 to inform potential victims and the public about forced labor and sex trafficking. The awareness campaign included a list of common trafficking indicators that was disseminated to media outlets and posted on a government website. The campaign also included public service announcements, brochures, flyers, and posters disseminated in local businesses and other official and public venues.

Observers reported that the government continues to conflate human trafficking with human smuggling as part of its ant trafficking response. In August 2013, the government adopted a national action plan on trafficking; the plan incorporated elements of the government’s anti-trafficking memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Netherlands and contained key recommendations on victim protection from the anti-trafficking community.

The government gave the Director of Immigration and Border Control the role of national anti-trafficking coordinator; the director also chairs the National Reporting Bureau. As part of the larger awareness campaign, the national coordinator conducted outreach with immigrant communities vulnerable to labor trafficking in 2013, providing them with information on how to report potential victims and trafficking crimes. The government reported that foreign women employed in the adult entertainment industry received anti-trafficking brochures and information on the new government hotline. The government did not launch any campaigns explicitly targeted at reducing the demand for forced labor or discouraging potential clients from engaging in the sex trade in St. Maarten.

The government has not identified incidents of foreign child sex tourism in St. Maarten, according to the US report.

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