St. Maarten is an autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For the purpose of this report, St. Maarten is not a "country" to which the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act apply.This narrative reflects how St. Maarten would be assessed if it were a separate, independent country.

The Government of St. Maarten fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, St. Maarten remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by identifying more victims of trafficking and investigating alleged traffickers, and holding preliminary hearings in its largest human trafficking case that was initiated during the previous reporting period. Although the government meets the minimum standards, for the second consecutive year it did not initiate new prosecutions or secure any convictions, and did not allocate specific funds for anti-trafficking efforts among government agencies.


Increase efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; implement formal standard operating procedures to guide officials, including health workers, on how to identify and assist victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to care; allocate funding to the National Reporting Bureau on Human Trafficking to improve anti-trafficking efforts; conduct outreach to all incoming migrants, including domestic workers and foreign women on temporary entertainment visas, to ensure they are informed of their rights, the anti-trafficking hotline, and ways to seek assistance; raise awareness among the general public and vulnerable groups about trafficking in St. Maarten; and amend the anti-trafficking penal code to eliminate the possibility of sentences that result in a trafficker paying a fine in lieu of serving a prison sentence.


The government maintained its law enforcement efforts. The penal code prohibits forced labor and forced prostitution, prescribing penalties ranging from 12 to 24 years imprisonment or a fine. These terms of imprisonment are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape; however, penalties of a fine in lieu of imprisonment are inadequate to deter trafficking and are disproportionately low compared to the seriousness of the crime. The code defines as trafficking fraudulent labor recruitment for the purpose of subjecting workers to forced labor or prostitution. The code also criminalizes unregulated prostitution.

The public prosecutor and the Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling Unit worked closely with authorities in the Dominican Republic towards finalizing its largest trafficking case, which was initiated in the previous reporting period. In April 2016, a preliminary court heard arguments in that case against four defendants on charges of exploitation of women and trafficking in persons; the case remained pending trial with the suspects in detention. An additional suspect in this case also remained in jail awaiting trial. The government initiated the investigation of five alleged traffickers (six in 2015) involved in one forced labor and two sex trafficking cases; all three cases remained under investigation at the close of the reporting period. The government did not initiate new prosecutions or secure any convictions for the second consecutive year. The government did not report any new investigations or prosecutions of officials for complicity in trafficking. At the annual Dutch Visa Conference, the public prosecutor's office presented on the legal framework to address human trafficking and the risks faced by vulnerable populations, including a case study.


The government increased efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. The government identified 96 foreign victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, provided shelter and care for five victims, and funded the repatriation of 44 victims. These efforts represent an increase from the government's identification of 50 victims and assistance or repatriation support for eight victims in 2015. While the government did not have standard operating procedures for the identification or referral of victims, informal agreements between government agencies were in place and immigration officials and other stakeholders continued to use an NGO-developed checklist of trafficking indicators. Officials routinely screened for trafficking victimization among adult entertainment workers during immigration procedures, labor inspections, and required medical screenings. The National Reporting Bureau on Human Trafficking (NRB) the lead agency for coordinating the government's efforts to combat trafficking and emergency response to cases periodically conducted outreach with immigrant communities, businesses, health officials, and the tourism sector on how to identify potential victims and report trafficking crimes; and conducted quarterly inspections of all brothels and dance clubs. Victims received shelter through the Red Cross and local NGOs. The government provided one NGO with a subsidy to assist in providing a wide range of victim services and support, including food, clothing, shelter, medical and psychological services, assistance in repatriation, and obtaining residence and work permits. The temporary residence program serves to encourage victim assistance in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; however, the government did not report granting such benefits during the year. The government has a formal policy to protect identified victims from being punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The anti-trafficking law allows trafficking victims to request restitution as part of criminal cases or file a civil suit against traffickers.


The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The NRB continued its prevention and outreach campaigns, reaching brothels and dance clubs, potential purchasers of commercial sex, work permit applicants, the business community, front-line responders, community-based organizations and immigrant communities. The government sustained its ongoing awareness campaign, publishing anti-trafficking brochures, posters, and fliers, making public service announcements, generating social media and news releases, and by participating in radio and television shows. The military police conducted trainings on verifying the authenticity of documents for an unknown number of border protection officials and employed a specialist in fraudulent documents in St. Maarten. Authorities continued to implement the 2013-2018 national action plan on trafficking, in coordination with local NGOs. The government continued to implement its policy requiring foreign women to apply for adult entertainment work permits on their own, ending the practice of brothel owners applying for permits, often with misleading and fraudulent work agreements. In August 2016, the government finalized a related policy to prevent brothel and club owners from providing them monetary loans with the purpose of creating financial dependency, requiring all personal documentation be in their possession, and requiring they be informed of their rights and resources to provide better protection to individuals in prostitution. This decree also required all persons in prostitution be at least 21 years of age, have valid medical insurance for the duration of their stay, and submit a labor agreement along with the application. In 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs implemented a policy that prohibited visa issuance for individuals in prostitution of an establishment under investigation. The government also informed employers of migrant workers about applicable laws and the national hotline, accessible by phone and email. There were no known reports of child sex tourism in St. Maarten.


As reported over the past five years, St. Maarten is a source, transit, and destination country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Russia are the most vulnerable to sex trafficking, including women working in regulated and unregulated brothels and dance clubs. There are indications some foreign women in St. Maarten's commercial sex industry are subjected to debt bondage. Government officials' reports indicate a significant number of migrant workers are vulnerable to forced domestic service or forced labor in construction, Chinese-owned markets, retail shops, landscaping, and housekeeping. Government officials report workers from Asia and the Caribbean are subjected to exploitative conditions indicative of forced labor. Migrants transiting St. Maarten en route to the United States and Canada may also be vulnerable to human trafficking, specifically Cuban and Brazilian nationals. There are indicators Colombian and Venezuelan women may travel to the islands under false pretenses and are subjected to human trafficking.


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