Belize (Tier 3)
Belize is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation. Women and girls are trafficked to Belize, mainly from Central America, and exploited in prostitution. Children are trafficked to Belize for labor exploitation. Belize's largely unmonitored borders with Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico facilitate the movement of illegal migrants who are vulnerable to traffickers. Girls are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, sometimes with the consent and complicity of their close relatives. There are also unconfirmed reports that Indian and Chinese migrants are trafficked for involuntary servitude in homes and shops.
The Government of Belize does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Belize failed to show evidence of significant law enforcement or victim protection efforts over the last year. Laws against trafficking remained weak and largely unenforced, adult victims received no attention or assistance, and the government made no significant effort to raise public awareness and work with vulnerable populations.
Anti-trafficking laws remained weak and the government made negligible progress in identifying and punishing traffickers during the reporting period. Law enforcement officials investigated five trafficking cases, prosecuted three, and convicted two traffickers. The country's anti-trafficking statute provides for a $5,000 fine or imprisonment for one to five years. In practice, recent convictions have resulted in one-year sentences. Penalties for sex crimes are significantly greater and prosecutors could use the more serious charges, when appropriate, against traffickers, but no such instances were confirmed during the reporting period. The National Assembly considered revisions to the Liquor Licensing Act that would bar convicted traffickers from receiving liquor licenses. However, police and prosecutors generally lack the resources needed to pursue anti-trafficking investigations and bring traffickers to trial. Although there are allegations of general corruption in Belize, there were no specific allegations of trafficking complicity; there were no known investigations or prosecutions of public officials for trafficking complicity.
The Government of Belize's protection services throughout the last year were minimal and did not meet victim needs. The anti-trafficking law provides specific victim protection policies, including temporary legal residence and protection from prosecution for victims willing to testify. However, the government operates no witness protection programs and there were no known attempts to identify foreign victims who might have requested such services. The government offered no programs for shelter or health care services to victims; normally, these costs are only covered if the victim's trafficker is convicted and ordered to pay restitution. Most of the few identified trafficking victims were referred to battered women's shelters or, in the case of minors, a children's home that offers care until the children can be returned to their homes. The government provided full assistance (shelter, medical aid, and financial help) to one Belizean child victim returned from El Salvador.
The government failed to carry out any significant trafficking prevention efforts during the period. Prevention awareness and sensitivity training fall almost exclusively to organizations outside the government, such as IOM, the Organization of American States, ECPAT, and some public media outlets. The anti-trafficking committee completed a first draft of a National Plan of Action and submitted the plan to the Cabinet in December 2005. The government cites lack of resources as a primary factor in its failure to do more.