Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Belize
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||14 June 2010|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Belize, 14 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c188408c.html [accessed 26 January 2015]|
BELIZE (Tier 2 Watch List)
Belize is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor. The most common form of trafficking in Belize is the forced prostitution of children, particularly situations where poor families push their school-aged daughters to provide sexual favors to wealthy older men in exchange for school fees, money, and gifts. This "sugar daddy" phenomenon occurs in Belize and other Caribbean countries, but often is not recognized as a form of human trafficking by local communities or law enforcement personnel. Men, women, and children, particularly from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, migrate voluntarily to Belize in search of work; some may fall victim to forced prostitution in bars or to forced labor. In recent years, migrants from India and Nepal have been subjected to conditions of forced labor in Belize. Child sex tourism has been identified as an emerging trend in Belize.
The Government of Belize 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, notably the continued provision of assistance to foreign trafficking victims first identified in 2005 and 2008, the government did not convict or sentence any trafficking offenders last year, and did not make adequate efforts to systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. In spite of existing anti-trafficking legislation and victim facilities, the government did not demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking; therefore Belize is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
Recommendations for Belize: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including any allegedly complicit public officials; increase law enforcement efforts against both labor and sex trafficking; develop a formal mechanism to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including migrant laborers and foreign women forced to work in bars; continue to improve victim services and assistance; and increase penalties for human trafficking so they are commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The Government of Belize demonstrated considerable, but incomplete, efforts to apply law enforcement measures against trafficking offenders during the past year. Belize's government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Act of 2003, which prescribes punishment between one and five years' imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape, which carries a penalty of eight years' to life imprisonment. Authorities conducted five anti-trafficking law enforcement operations during the reporting period; no cases of human trafficking were identified during these operations, but individuals were arrested for immigration offenses. Two prosecutions of labor trafficking offenses are pending before the courts; in both cases, the victims were adult males. There were no trafficking convictions during the reporting period, and there have been no trafficking convictions since 2005. Some international organizations describe Belize's judicial system as dysfunctional: human trafficking cases are typically handled in lower courts and often dismissed. An anti-trafficking committee, formed of various government agencies and several NGOs, led the government's efforts to combat trafficking, including coordination of investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders. There were no confirmed cases of trafficking-related complicity by Belizean officials, although an NGO reports that some officials may have accepted bribes to ignore potential trafficking activity.
The Government of Belize maintained adequate protection services for trafficking victims last year. During the reporting period, the government revised standard operating procedures for officials dealing with human trafficking cases to improve victim identification and conducted training on these procedures. Immigration officials who had received government-sponsored training on human trafficking identified four sex trafficking victims in March 2010: while initially incarcerated for immigration violations, once identified the victims were removed from jail and placed in protective care. Ten foreign labor trafficking victims, all adult males who were first identified in 2008, received shelter assistance, victim services and work permits last year, and two were offered permanent residency. Three sex trafficking victims first identified in 2005 continued to receive legal, health, and rehabilitation services from the government during the reporting period. Child victims of trafficking could be placed in government institutions for children or referred to local NGOs, which receive limited funding and in-kind support from the government; the Government of Belize provided services to one child victim, including foster care and funding for legal, health, and rehabilitation services. The government operated two shelters for adult trafficking victims and provided access to medical care, counseling, and integration assistance. One of the shelters cannot accommodate both male and female victims at the same time. Authorities in Belize encouraged victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. There were no reports of victims being jailed or penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Authorities provided temporary residency for foreign trafficking victims participating in court cases. In collaboration with the Mexican government, the government assisted in the repatriation of several Indian labor trafficking victims. The anti-trafficking committee conducted training in trafficking victim identification for police officers, immigration officials, labor officials, social workers, and health care workers during the reporting period.
The Government of Belize maintained efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking during the reporting period. The government continued to air public service announcements in multiple languages and distributed posters and anti-trafficking materials. The government maintained partnerships with international organizations and NGOs, particularly regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children, and hosted a workshop in 2009 to raise awareness of this issue. Authorities registered 13 new cases of children at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation and provided them with education assistance, counseling, and other services. Although there were no reported investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the reporting period, government officials continued to work with Belize's tourism industry to promote a code of conduct to prevent child sex tourism. In an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex, courts convicted three individuals for commercial sexual exploitation of children using carnal knowledge and indecent assault statutes. No specific efforts to reduce demand for forced labor were reported.