U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belize
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||14 June 2004|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belize, 14 June 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d821c.html [accessed 29 April 2016]|
Belize (Tier 2 Watch List)
Belize is a transit and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and debt bondage. Belizean brothel operators contract with traffickers to bring women and girls from Central America into Belize for the sex trade. Belizean girls are also trafficked internally for sexual exploitation in prostitution and pornography. Because of Belize's lax border controls, illegal migrants – notably from China and India – enter and transit the country, bound for Mexico and the U.S. Many illegal migrants perform labor in Belize to pay off their huge smuggling debts; they may be forced to do this work.
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. Belize's efforts were reassessed to have met the requirements of Tier 2 in September 2003 as a result of several government initiatives: the enactment of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, the creation of a national taskforce, and stepped-up law enforcement efforts against brothel owners and operators. The government needs to sustain these efforts by arresting and prosecuting the many traffickers who are active in illegal migration and sexual exploitation. The government also needs to address government corruption by removing and prosecuting officials who patronize brothels with trafficking victims or profit from illegal migration. For these reasons, Belize is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.
The government's law enforcement efforts are guided by the anti-trafficking statute enacted in the summer of 2003. Police made 11 trafficking-related arrests. There have been no prosecutions or convictions. Of four sex traffickers arrested in the summer of 2003, one defendant was released on a technicality; three others are out on bail and no trial dates have been set. Police arrested several migrant smugglers (who are often transporting trafficking victims), and should redouble these efforts. Prosecuting corrupt government officials should remain a priority.
The national anti-trafficking law contains commendable victim protection policies, but implementation is hindered by a lack of resources. The government does not treat victims as criminals, and foreign victims may claim residency status. The government lacks the resources to provide victims with adequate services; victims are referred to NGOs for this purpose.
Belize's anti-trafficking strategy is set by the national taskforce, which has made considerable progress in coordinating government actions, but has yet to release a national plan. The government conducted a brief multimedia public awareness campaign. The government carried out training of public officials, but needs to devote more resources to protecting the border and devising an aggressive anti-trafficking border policy.