Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - The Bahamas
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||4 June 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - The Bahamas, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a4aa.html [accessed 22 September 2014]|
Limited data suggest a possible labor trafficking problem in The Bahamas. The Bahamas remains a special case for a third consecutive year because the presence of large numbers of undocumented migrants in the country continues to raise concerns that there may be a significant number of trafficking victims in need of assistance. While the government has been pro-active by collaborating with IOM on a draft anti-trafficking bill and engaging in anti-trafficking training efforts, a more effective government response would include enactment of national antitrafficking laws and greater efforts to protect victims, particularly development of a pre-deportation mechanism to identify possible trafficking victims among undocumented migrants and detainees. Increased anti-trafficking training for government officials also would assist the government's efforts.
Scope and Magnitude. The Bahamas may be a destination and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. A large proportion of the country's population consists of undocumented Haitian immigrants, with estimates ranging from 30,000 to 60,000, some of whom may be subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude. Although most of these migrants arrive voluntarily in The Bahamas to work as domestic servants, gardeners, construction workers, and agricultural laborers, many are reported to be exploited by Bahamian employers who can coerce them to work long hours for no pay by withholding documents or threatening arrest and deportation. Past media reports indicate that a limited number of women and girls from Jamaica and other countries may be trafficked to The Bahamas for commercial sexual exploitation.
Government Efforts. Official recognition of human trafficking concerns and the need to enact antitrafficking legislation increased in The Bahamas last year, in addition to awareness of the need to balance vigorous enforcement of immigration laws with protecting undocumented migrants from exploitation. To further advance its anti-trafficking efforts, the government should investigate the potential scope of the problem and continue to work with its legislature to pass a comprehensive law criminalizing all forms of human trafficking, including forced labor and domestic servitude. Under current Bahamian law, Title X of its Statute Law can be used to prosecute traffickers for sexual exploitation offenses. These provisions carry penalties up to eight years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other grave crimes, such as rape. Trafficking for forced labor is not prohibited. While The Bahamas has well-developed civil labor laws that guarantee workers a minimum wage, maximum working hours, and other legal benefits, migrant workers usually do not have access to these protections, which makes them more vulnerable to coercive practices. Current Bahamian law also provides that a legal work permit is issued directly and exclusively to a local employer, who has the ability to cancel the permit and require a migrant to return home – an area of reported abuse and concern about labor trafficking activity. Last year, the government did not investigate or prosecute any trafficking cases.
The government has an interagency group to address trafficking concerns, and has assigned a priority to the passage of anti-trafficking legislation. Overall services for trafficking victims, however, remain extremely limited. The Bahamas operates no specialized trafficking shelters, although domestic violence services could be expanded to cover women and child trafficking victims. NGOs and faith-based organizations working with undocumented migrants have expressed a willingness to assist trafficking victims despite concerns about their security, but the government lacks an effective referral mechanism. The government also has no established mechanism for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, particularly immigration detainees. The Bahamas has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.