ARUBA: TIER 1
Aruba is an autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For the purpose of this report, Aruba 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 Aruba would be assessed if it were a separate, independent country.
The Government of Aruba fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government made key achievements to do so during the reporting period; therefore Aruba was upgraded to Tier 1. These achievements included identifying and assisting more victims, prosecuting five individuals and convicting two traffickers – the first since 2013, approving the 2018-2022 national action plan, and establishing a specialized investigatory police unit. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not dedicate a budget for victim protection efforts or fund the implementation of the national action plan.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ARUBA
Allocate sufficient resources to enable the national anti-trafficking task force and national coordinator to implement the 2018-2022 national action plan and all anti-trafficking efforts; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; punish traffickers with prison sentences to deter the crime; implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and referral of possible trafficking victims among Venezuelan migrants and asylum-seekers; train officials on the use of the newly adopted referral mechanism; proactively identify trafficking victims among all vulnerable groups, including women in prostitution, those who hold adult entertainment visas, domestic workers, and migrants working in construction, supermarkets, and retail; continue to provide information to all migrant workers arriving in Aruba on their rights and resources for assistance; formalize agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims; and finalize the implementation strategy for the construction of the multifaceted shelter for victims of crimes, including trafficking.
The government increased prosecution efforts to combat trafficking. Articles 2:239, 2:240, and 2:241 of the penal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking. Penalties ranged from eight to 18 years imprisonment or a fine of 25,000 to 100,000 florins ($14,040 to $56,180). These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Human Trafficking and Smuggling Unit (UMM), which became operational in 2017, investigated seven cases for alleged forced labor in 2017, compared with six trafficking investigations in 2016 and one in 2015. The government prosecuted five individuals (two for sex trafficking and three for forced labor) and convicted two traffickers whose sentence ranged from 21 to 22 months imprisonment. Between 2014-2016, the government did not initiate any prosecutions or convict any traffickers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The government trained 500 law enforcement officials on trafficking indicators. At the Interpol Conference on Human Trafficking in the Caribbean, the Aruban authorities trained officials in the region on best practices.
The government increased protection efforts. In 2017, the UMM reported identifying 71 victims of labor trafficking, compared with nine trafficking victims in 2016 and one in 2015. The anti-trafficking task force continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the most common signs of trafficking. The task force also identified different scenarios in which officials might encounter victims of trafficking, such as during visa interviews or medical screenings required for certain jobs. Multi-disciplinary teams comprised of police, labor, and immigration officials investigated six cases of possible forced labor. These inspections led to the prosecution of three individuals; legal proceedings remained open at the end of the reporting period. In 2017, the government began using a formal victim referral mechanism to guide officials; however, the government did not report referring victims using this mechanism. The government maintained informal verbal agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims of trafficking. Authorities placed unaccompanied child victims in foster care centers, foster homes, or local churches. Officials conducted risk assessments before deciding whether victims could leave shelters unchaperoned and restricted their movement if their lives were threatened. Despite the absence of a dedicated budget for anti-trafficking efforts, the government provided food, shelter, legal assistance, medical care, and repatriation assistance to all victims. During the reporting period, the government began drafting a plan for the development of a multifunctional shelter for victims in the Dutch Caribbean. Authorities did not report whether any victims assisted the government in the prosecution of their traffickers during the reporting period. Foreign victims were entitled to the same rights and protection as Arubans. The law authorized the extension of temporary immigration relief for foreign victims for three to six months on a case-by-case basis, and allowed foreign victims whose employers were suspected of trafficking to change employers. Authorities did not report whether any victims received these benefits. The criminal code enabled victims to file civil suits against traffickers and if the trial resulted from a criminal investigation, the victim could seek restitution not to exceed 50,000 florins ($28,090) for financial and emotional damages. The Bureau of Victim Assistance operated a hotline for victims of all crimes, including trafficking. In 2017, four victims of trafficking were identified and referred to services after calling the hotline.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government approved the 2018-2022 national anti-trafficking action plan; however, it failed to allocate funding for its implementation. The task force reported a lack of dedicated funding hindered implementation of the plan. The government continued to raise awareness of trafficking and the hotline via social media, posters, and flyers in four languages. The government educated students leaving Aruba to study abroad on the risks of becoming victims. In connection with the National Day Against Human Trafficking, the task force organized 10 training sessions for over 1,000 individuals including students, airline personnel, hotel staff, transportation companies, and the general public. The task force also worked with a local TV station to produce a documentary on trafficking expected to be released in 2018. The government continued procedures to screen and inform adult entertainers from Colombia, who must meet with Dutch consular officers to ensure the applicants know their rights and their work agreement before picking up their in-flight letter at the Dutch embassy in Colombia. Upon arrival, such visa recipients received information about their rights, risks, and resources. In an effort to reduce the entry or transit of potential victims of trafficking, the government created a register of all persons who acted as guarantors for foreigners entering the country. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex.
As reported over the past five years, Aruba is a transit and destination country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Venezuelan women are subjected to sex trafficking in Aruba, and foreign men and women are vulnerable to forced labor in the service and construction industries. Due to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, the number of individuals overstaying their visa increased, leaving those with expired documentation vulnerable to trafficking. Chinese men and women working in supermarkets, Indian men in the retail sector and domestic service, and Caribbean and South American women in domestic service are also at risk of forced labor. A 2013 international organization report identified women in Aruba's regulated and unregulated prostitution sectors, domestic workers, and employees of small retail shops as populations most vulnerable to trafficking. Children may be vulnerable to sex trafficking and to forced labor in Chinese-owned supermarkets and restaurants.