THE BAHAMAS (Tier 2 Watch List)
The Bahamas is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Undocumented migrants, particularly the estimated 30,000 Haitians who largely arrive in The Bahamas voluntarily, are vulnerable to forced labor, especially in domestic servitude and in the agriculture sector. Experts also have raised concerns that some workers from Jamaica could be vulnerable to involuntary servitude. Media outlets have reported that Chinese workers in a large-scale Chinese construction project in The Bahamas do not have freedom of movement – a human trafficking indicator. Groups especially vulnerable to sex trafficking in The Bahamas include foreign citizens in prostitution and local children engaging in sex with men for basics such as food, transportation, or material goods.
The Government of The Bahamas does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts – most notably the establishment of a high-level interagency committee and continued statements of commitment to address human trafficking – the government has not identified or assisted any victims of trafficking or initiated any forced labor or sex trafficking prosecutions; therefore, The Bahamas is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. In a positive development, in March 2012 the government announced the establishment of a working level interagency task force to handle specific allegations of human trafficking and a protocol to guide officials in handling trafficking cases. In addition, the government held a trafficking awareness event in March 2012 to express its commitment to addressing human trafficking.
Recommendations for The Bahamas: Implement formal procedures to guide police, immigration officials, child welfare officers, health officials and labor inspectors on how to identify victims of forced labor and forced prostitution among vulnerable groups, including migrant workers and people in prostitution, and refer them to available services; greatly improve efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders, including any government employees complicit in human trafficking; when conducting trafficking investigations, ensure suspected victims are taken to a safe location, as victims of human trafficking often feel threatened and are reluctant to identify themselves as victims during a raid but are likely to reveal at least a portion of their true situations when they are interviewed in a non-confrontational, supportive setting; identify potential victims of forced labor and forced prostitution; and fund NGOs designated to assist victims.
The Government of The Bahamas demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. All forms of human trafficking are prohibited through the country's Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act of 2008, which prescribes penalties ranging from three years' to life imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported one new human trafficking investigation during the reporting period, compared with three investigations in the previous reporting period. There were no prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government officials for human trafficking complicity. The government provided venues and required representatives from multiple agencies to attend training provided by foreign donors.
During the year, the Bahamian authorities identified no trafficking victims. Greatly hindering its ability to rescue victims, the government did not employ systematic procedures to assist law enforcement personnel, labor inspectors, child welfare officers, and health workers to proactively identify victims of forced prostitution and forced labor. The government launched an official witness care program that provides support programs and information to victims of crime in 2011, but the program reportedly has not yet assisted any trafficking victims. The government designated a domestic violence NGO as a "focal point" for female human trafficking victims and provided the NGO with the equivalent of $25,000 to cover its primary mission as well as human trafficking services. Reportedly, the government made available facilities to assist child victims. There were no services, however, for adult male trafficking victims. The Bahamian trafficking law allows for temporary relief from deportation for foreign trafficking victims, although the government did not report any victims given such immigration relief. The Bahamian law also specifies that trafficking victims should not be penalized for immigration or prostitution violations committed as a result of being in a human trafficking situation.
The government demonstrated some trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. Bahamian authorities conducted a large trafficking awareness forum in March 2012 that included government and non-government stakeholders in which officials expressed public commitment to address trafficking. Also in March 2012, the government spoke out on the radio to raise awareness of human trafficking. The government provided funding for an NGO that operated a hotline for domestic violence with operators trained to assist victims of trafficking. The government established a national committee chaired by a senior official to review the government's anti-trafficking efforts to date and make recommendations to the cabinet. This committee worked on a national action plan, the establishment of a task force – including law enforcement, social service, medical professionals, NGOs and religious leaders – to handle trafficking allegations, and a protocol to guide officials in the identification and appropriate handling of trafficking cases. The government did not undertake measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Authorities did not consider child sex tourism to be a problem in The Bahamas during the reporting period and reported no cases of it identified, investigated, or prosecuted.