U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Belize

Belize (Tier 2 Watch List)

Belize is a transit and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation. Women and children are trafficked to Belize, mainly from Central America, to work in Belize's growing sex industry. Girls are trafficked internally for sexual exploitation, sometimes with the consent and encouragement of their parents. There are also reports of sexual and labor exploitation of men and women in Belize's banana, sugarcane, and citrus industries. Some Chinese and Indians are trafficked to Belize for debt bondage. Exact numbers of trafficking victims are unknown, particularly the number of transnational trafficking victims, given Belize's lengthy and porous borders.

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 is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to fight trafficking over the last year, particularly in the area of victim protection and prosecution of trafficking-related corruption. The government still struggles to investigate trafficking within Belize's growing sex trade. To augment its trafficking efforts, the government should increase law enforcement efforts under the anti-trafficking law, make appreciable progress in protecting victims, devote resources to preventing trafficking, and take action against reports that officials are profiting and facilitating trafficking in persons.


The government made modest anti-trafficking law enforcement gains over the last year through enforcement of the anti-trafficking statute enacted in 2003. Over the reporting period, there were 18 prosecutions and two convictions of traffickers. However, police and prosecutors lack resources to adequately address trafficking-related matters and struggle to recognize and investigate trafficking-related offenses that may be taking place in Belize's sex trade. Officials maintain that all prostitution is voluntary, despite some reports to the contrary, and this impedes any further investigation or action. The government has provided some limited training on investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases; additional training is badly needed. There are unconfirmed reports of law enforcement officials' facilitation of trafficking, including some reports of officials patronizing brothels with trafficking victims and also some who are profiting from illegal migration. There were no known investigations or prosecutions of public officials for trafficking complicity over the last year.


The government was unable to provide adequate protection to trafficking victims during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking law lays out victim protection policies, but it is impossible for the country to implement those measures because it does not have the capacity or the means to do so. There are very few shelters in the country that have the ability to work with trafficking victims; however, victims are not treated as criminals and services are provided whenever possible. In general, victims are turned over to NGOs that offer protections for women in domestic violence. There is a special residency status for foreign victims, but in reality most foreign victims are deported. Officials maintain that none of the deported women in prostitution are trafficking victims.


The government failed to sustain an anti-trafficking prevention campaign over the last year due to lack of resources and poor public understanding of trafficking in persons. Occasionally, the government will run radio public service announcements and newspaper ads about trafficking and the commercial exploitation of children. With little resources and few NGOs and international organizations, Belize struggles to implement any long-term policies to combat and prevent trafficking. The government recognizes this problem and is dedicated to doing more. The government has an anti-trafficking task force and is in the process of developing a national plan of action.


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