2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - The Bahamas
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - The Bahamas, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee41c.html [accessed 25 April 2014]|
The Bahamas (Tier 2 Watch List)
The Bahamas is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Senior Bahamian officials during the year acknowledged that forced labor and forced prostitution exists in The Bahamas. NGOs and officials in The Bahamas are concerned that the estimated 30,000 undocumented Haitians, most of whom arrive in The Bahamas voluntarily, are highly vulnerable to forced labor in farming, landscaping, and housekeeping. NGOs allege there were cases where employers coerce Haitian workers into involuntary servitude by improperly holding work permits and threatening arrest and deportation. NGOs and local experts also have raised concerns that some workers from Jamaica, China, Peru, and the Philippines could be vulnerable to involuntary servitude. Anecdotal reports suggest that women from South American countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Panama may be subjected to forced prostitution. Groups vulnerable to sex trafficking in The Bahamas include children engaging in sex with men for basics such as food, transportation, or material goods.
The Government of The Bahamas does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts – most notably increased government statements of commitment to address the country's human trafficking problem – the government did not demonstrate evidence of an overall increase in its anti-trafficking efforts over the previous year; therefore, The Bahamas is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Specifically, there were no reports of victims assisted or trafficking offenders prosecuted and punished. The absence of a formal inter-ministerial coordination body and formal procedures to guide officials in how to identify and address suspected instances of forced labor or forced prostitution were obstacles to progress during the reporting period. Portending well for future results, by the end of 2010, the director of public prosecutions announced it had established a special cadre of prosecutors to prosecute trafficking cases.
Recommendations for The Bahamas: Develop and implement formal procedures to guide police, immigration officials, and labor inspectors in how to identify victims of forced labor and forced prostitution among vulnerable groups, including migrant workers and people in prostitution, and refer them to available services; identify potential victims of forced labor and forced prostitution; fund NGOs designated to assist victims; and vigorously prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders.
The Government of The Bahamas demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. All forms of human trafficking are prohibited through the country's Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act of 2008. Penalties prescribed by the Act for trafficking in persons offenses range from three years' to life imprisonment, and are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported at least three investigations of human trafficking offenses during the reporting period. The government reported that the results of investigations into suspected trafficking cases to date have not warranted prosecution. Responding to allegations of human trafficking occurring at the private estate of a wealthy Canadian resident of The Bahamas raised in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, the government reported that an investigation into the matter yielded no evidence of human trafficking. By the end of 2010, the director of public prosecutions established a special cadre of prosecutors to prosecute trafficking cases. The government investigated officials for misconduct, but did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government officials for human trafficking complicity. Anecdotal reports suggest that human trafficking complicity may be a problem. Resource constraints and capacity, given the country's small population size and geographic spread, were also obstacles to law enforcement results. The government provided venues and required representatives from stakeholder agencies to attend training provided by foreign donors, IOM, and OAS. Representatives from the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Labor and Social Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Immigration, Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defense Force, and national NGOs participated. These trainings included segments on victim identification, victim assistance, prosecutions, labor laws, and child sex tourism.
There was little progress made in the area of victim protection during the reporting period. Greatly hindering its ability to rescue victims, the government did not have formal guidelines or procedures in place to assist law enforcement personnel, labor inspectors, and health workers in how to proactively identify victims of forced prostitution and forced labor; while the government reported conducting trafficking investigations, no victims were identified as a result of these investigations. The government provided space in medical facilities and long term shelters to assist trafficking victims. According to two NGOs, the government did not report using a formal plan to refer trafficking victims to the Bureau of Women's Affairs. One local NGO that provides services to trafficking victims – in addition to its main focus on domestic violence and sexual abuse – faced closure and eviction due to lack of funding during the reporting period.
Although Bahamian law encourages victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders, no victims were identified during the reporting period. Similarly, though the law allows for temporary relief from deportation for foreign trafficking victims, officials reportedly deported some probable trafficking victims during the reporting period. Following anti-trafficking training, Bahamian authorities implemented new protocols to ensure that identified victims are not inappropriately penalized for immigration violations or any unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked.
Senior government officials, in particular the minister of state for labor and social development, were outspoken in their advocacy of efforts to address human trafficking during the reporting period. The government did not conduct any formal trafficking prevention campaigns during the reporting period, but the Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced that it was developing public service announcements to raise awareness of human trafficking in English and Creole. One NGO operated a government-funded hotline for domestic violence, providing operators trained to assist victims of trafficking. The government lacked adequate coordination of its anti-trafficking efforts, specifically a focal point official or inter-ministerial body. The government did not conduct any specific awareness campaigns to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government did not identify a problem of its nationals or foreign nationals engaging in child sex tourism.