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2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Honduras

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Honduras, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cc341.html [accessed 30 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

HONDURAS (Tier 2)

Honduras is principally a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Honduran victims are often recruited from rural areas with false offers of employment and later subjected to sex trafficking in urban and tourist centers, such as Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and the Bay Islands. Honduran women and children are exploited in sex trafficking in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Belize, and the United States. To a lesser extent, women and girls from neighboring countries are exploited in sex trafficking in Honduras. There have also been reports of rural families leasing out their children, who are then exploited in forced labor, including forced begging and commercial sexual exploitation in urban areas. NGOs report incidents of forced labor in Honduras in agriculture and domestic service. Honduran men, women, and children are also subjected to forced labor in other countries, particularly in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States; some of these migrants are exploited en route to or within the United States. Over the last year, officials, NGOs, and the media reported that an increase in cases in which young males in urban areas were coerced and threatened by gang members to transport drugs. In addition to anecdotal reports of incidents in the Bay Islands, Honduran authorities have identified child sex tourists in La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, and Siguatepeque.

The Government of Honduras does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included sustained, modest law enforcement efforts against child sex traffickers and the drafting and the passage of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. However, government funding for victim services remained inadequate, efforts against forced labor were weak and impeded by the lack of criminal penalties during the year, and authorities did not employ proactive methods to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.

Recommendations for Honduras: Vigorously implement the new comprehensive anti-trafficking law; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute all trafficking offenses, including forced labor crimes and forced prostitution of adult victims, and increase the number of trafficking offenders convicted and sentenced; ensure that specialized services and shelter are available to trafficking victims through dedicated funding, either to government entities or civil society organizations; increase resources and staff for the dedicated police and prosecutorial units; develop and implement formal procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable populations and referring them to service providers; continue to increase training on victim identification and assistance for immigration and law enforcement officers, labor inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and social workers; improve data collection on law enforcement and victim protection efforts; enhance government planning and coordination mechanisms, perhaps through passing a national plan; and continue to raise awareness about all forms of human trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Honduras demonstrated uneven anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. While it maintained efforts to investigate and punish sex trafficking crimes involving children and passed comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation prohibiting forced labor, its efforts to investigate cases of sex trafficking of adults or forced labor remained weak. In April 2012, Congress passed a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking, as well as establishes more robust victim protections and interagency cooperation. The law also prohibits illegal adoption, a crime that is distinct from human trafficking, per the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The law prescribes penalties ranging from 10 to 22.5 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent punishments and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Prior to this, Honduras prohibited forced prostitution through aggravated circumstances in Article 149 of its penal code, which prescribes penalties ranging from 12 to 19.5 years' imprisonment. It did not, however, specifically prohibit forced labor. The government maintained a law enforcement unit dedicated to investigating human trafficking and human smuggling crimes; this unit consisted of 10 investigative officers, all based in the capital. The Office of the Special Prosecutor for Children handles all trafficking cases, including those involving adults. This unit's effectiveness was hampered, however, by limited staff and funding; there were only two prosecutors, four analysts, and two investigators responsible for investigating trafficking crimes, as well as all crimes against children.

There were 48 new investigations and 162 pending investigations into human trafficking complaints during the reporting period. Authorities reported prosecuting and convicting six sex trafficking offenders in 2011, although it was unclear what statutes these cases were prosecuted under, or if they were all human trafficking convictions. Convicted offenders received sentences ranging from three to 19 years' imprisonment, plus fines. In comparison, authorities reported prosecuting 26 trafficking cases and obtained three convictions during the previous year. The lack of specific prohibitions against forced labor remained a significant impediment in law enforcement efforts. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of public officials for complicity in human trafficking. NGOs and international organizations continued to deliver most of the anti-trafficking training available to government officials; immigration officials received information on how to identify trafficking victims, municipal employees were trained on how to receive and refer trafficking complaints, and cadets at the national police academy received training on how to identify and respond to trafficking cases.

Protection

The Honduran government provided minimal services to trafficking victims during the year, although it continued to refer victims to NGOs for care. Honduran authorities continued to lack systematic procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution. A network of NGOs reported identifying over 90 victims during the reporting period, whereas authorities identified only 16 victims through law enforcement efforts. The government did not fund dedicated shelters or services for trafficking victims. Honduran officials generally referred trafficking victims to NGO facilities on an ad hoc basis; these facilities did not receive funding from the government. Although the government continued to offer child victims limited medical and psychological assistance at three government shelters for at-risk children, officials did not record the number of child trafficking victims who received services at these facilities. NGOs have provided services to adult victims of trafficking in Honduras, including repatriated Honduran victims, although government funding for adult victim services was practically nonexistent. The only government-provided shelter accessible to adult male victims was the migrant detention center, which was not appropriate for victims of trafficking. Government-funded victim services were largely limited to the delivery of basic medical, psychological, and dentistry services to some victims at government health facilities; these services are available to all Honduran citizens.

Victims were encouraged to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, and an unknown number did so during the reporting period. Some trafficking victims declined to cooperate, however, due to distrust in the judicial system, particularly its ability to ensure their personal safety. There were no reports of identified victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked. The government did not report systematically offering foreign victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, although victims could be granted temporary residency as refugees or migrant workers. However, authorities reported that no foreign victims applied for this status during the year.

Prevention

The government maintained limited efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period through partnerships with civil society organizations. The Inter-Institutional Commission on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children, which is composed of government agencies, NGOs, and international organizations, served as the interagency coordinating body, and met 17 times in 2011. The commission drafted and presented the comprehensive anti-trafficking bill to the Honduran Congress during the year. The government maintained a national hotline for trafficking victims to obtain information and assistance; the hotline was administered by the anti-trafficking police unit. The government reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the year. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts.

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