USDOS – US Department of State (Autor)
The Government of Guyana fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Despite the documented impact of the pandemic on the government’s anti-trafficking capacity, the government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore Guyana remained on Tier 1. These efforts included increasing investigations, identifying and assisting more victims, creating the first anti-trafficking hotline in Spanish, opening an additional shelter, and creating standard operating procedures for victim identification. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not prosecute as many traffickers or provide adequate screening and shelter for child and male victims; it also lacked capacity and training to identify and investigate trafficking cases in remote regions.
Increase prosecutions and convictions in sex and labor trafficking cases and pursue them under the 2005 TIP Act, including for those cases involving child victims. • Investigate trafficking cases in remote regions of the country. • Fund specialized victim services, particularly for child, adult male, and Venezuelan victims in their native language. • Reduce delays in court proceedings and pretrial detention of suspects. • Monitor the working conditions of Cuban medical workers, proactively screen participants for trafficking indicators, and protect trafficking victims identified. • Hold convicted traffickers, including complicit public officials, accountable by imposing strong sentences. • Prohibit recruitment and placement fees charged to workers. • Develop standard trauma-informed victim identification and referral procedures and train law enforcement officials and front-line responders in their use. • Renew implementation of a data-sharing system in coordination with an international organization. • Complete a training manual for diplomats.
The government maintained minimal law enforcement efforts. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 (Act) criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three years to life imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2020, authorities reported 31 new investigations (23 for sex trafficking and eight for labor trafficking), compared to 27 in 2019 and 30 in 2018. The government reported continuing one labor trafficking investigation from the previous reporting period. The government reported one new prosecution for sex trafficking in 2020, compared with three prosecutions in 2019 and 11 in 2018. The prosecution was for one case of solicitation of trafficking victims. Prosecutions continued against two defendants in previously initiated cases. Authorities convicted one trafficker during the reporting period, compared with one in 2019 and one in 2018. In February 2021, a non-Guyanese was convicted of trafficking a Venezuelan woman for sex, following charges brought in June 2020. The punishment included four years imprisonment, which excluded time spent on remand, and payment of 1 million Guyanese dollars (GYD) ($4,650) in restitution to the survivor. The government did not report on the appeal of a former police officer convicted of sex trafficking and released on bail in 2016; the appeal was still pending at the end of the reporting period.
Limited human and financial resources, in part due to the pandemic, hindered the government’s ability to identify and investigate trafficking cases in the country’s remote regions. The Guyana Police Force (GPF) Counter-Trafficking Unit did not have a fixed, discrete budget. Two key entities prosecuted criminal matters in Guyana: the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) prosecuted felonies such as murder and rape at High Court trials, and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) prosecution unit prosecuted hybrid offenses, including human trafficking in the Magistrates Court. Police prosecutors were not licensed attorneys, but some had law degrees and received specialized training in legal procedure. GPF prosecutors were advised to request the advice and guidance of the DPP to strengthen cases for prosecution before initiating legal proceedings, but the government reported this was not often done. The government reported deficiencies in police trafficking investigative skills and that victims were often unwilling to testify against traffickers out of fear or due to financial incentives; the Act required witness testimony of victims in order to prosecute. The government reported both of these factors contributed to the low prosecution rate. The judicial process remained slow, with human trafficking and other major criminal trials taking an average of two years and up to three years to complete due to shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, allegations of bribery, poor case tracking, and delays in preparing cases for trial. The government did not have a specialized trafficking court. The government reported both virtual and in-person hearings took place during the pandemic and it was able to handle a normal caseload, but courts did not have trials and sat only for guilty pleas or to accept new cases. The government funded training for 144 police, investigators, probation officers, and prosecutors on trafficking, trauma-informed investigations, and prosecution. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The government reported cooperation and information sharing on trafficking cases with CARICOM, INTERPOL, and the Response for Venezuela Coordinating Group.
The government increased protection efforts. In 2020, the government identified 199 victims and NGOs an additional five victims (127 sex trafficking victims and 77 labor trafficking victims), a significant increase from 102 victims identified by the government and three additional victims identified by an international organization in 2019. Of the 204 victims, 127 were Venezuelan, 27 Haitian, 24 Dominican, 22 Guyanese, three Jamaican, and one Cuban. Of these, 151 were female and 53 male, with ten of them being children. The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s (MHSSS’s) Counter-Trafficking (C-TIP) Unit identified victims and provided social welfare and assistance to victims. In fiscal year 2020, the government reported that the C-TIP Unit received a budgetary allocation of 25.86 million GYD ($120,270) and in fiscal year 2021, 37.67 million GYD ($175,230). In cooperation with an international organization and a foreign donor, authorities developed but did not yet implement standard operating procedures for victim identification pending an additional government review.
During the reporting period, the government referred 100 victims to shelter or protective services, compared with 99 victims in 2019. Authorities opened a new shelter for trafficking victims in a rural district, bringing the total number of government-operated shelters offering specialized care, including food, training, translation, legal services, medical services, and psychological therapy, for trafficking victims to five. The government also provided 62.35 million GYD ($290,000) in 2020 to two NGO-managed shelters providing housing for adult female victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking, an increase from 2.35 million GYD ($10,930) in 2019. The NGO shelters provided victims with the same range of services as the government-operated shelters. The government provided 4.52 million GYD ($21,000) in direct financial assistance to victims who chose not to stay in a shelter, an increase from 2 million GYD ($9,300) last year. Authorities also provided counseling and other humanitarian assistance to 125 victims who opted not to access shelter services. Humanitarian assistance included food, clothing, translation, and immediate medical services. The government provided a total of 226 victims with some form of assistance during the reporting period. The government reported shelter care was voluntary; victims could leave shelters at will and choose between shelter options, although shelters had curfews and occasionally measures were necessary to prevent victims from giving out shelter locations. Shelter services were not time limited and the government reported some victims staying up to 24 months at the shelters. Foreign and Guyanese victims received the same access to care and assistance. There were inadequate trafficking shelters for male or child trafficking victims and few employed trauma-trained staff. For child victims, the MHSSS provided intake counseling and then placed them either in a shelter co-managed with NGOs, which also could attend to adult victims in special circumstances, or in children’s homes the government owned and operated itself. MHSSS placed some children into foster care or reintegrated them with their families, while authorities placed adult male victims at non-specialized night shelters on an ad hoc basis.
According to authorities, law enforcement officials and social workers screened all individuals for indicators of human trafficking during raids for commercial sex violations and victims identified during such operations were not arrested. By the end of the reporting period, the government had not renewed a data sharing agreement with an international organization to collect data from vulnerable populations, including migrants. Victim assistance remained a serious concern in areas outside the capital and for Venezuelan, child, and male victims. In some instances, officials did not screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations, including Venezuelans, those working in the mining sector, and Cuban medical professionals working in the country. In February 2021, the GPF inadvertently publicly identified a potential trafficking victim and a witness; the MHSSS subsequently reprimanded the GPF and the GPF opened a criminal investigation. Courts ordered some human trafficking hearings or trials to be partially closed to the public in order to protect victims’ privacy and identities, and the government strongly advised the media to avoid taking photos of victims. The MoSP funded transportation costs and police escorts for victims staying outside a shelter who were willing to attend court proceedings. A victim provided testimony via video during the reporting period; authorities also permitted recorded statements. The government reported the quality of saved video recordings was generally poor and often compromised the viability of video evidence in trafficking prosecutions. Authorities allowed victims to obtain other employment or to leave the country pending trial proceedings and offered them psychological therapy before and after trial proceedings to help prevent re-traumatization. The government reported the appeal of a 2017 case in which the government required the trafficker to pay restitution without imprisonment, a penalty inconsistent with the law, was still pending at the end of the reporting period. Authorities offered deportation relief to 10 non-Venezuelan foreign victims, significantly fewer than the 135 foreign victims in 2019. Deportation relief allowed a victim to remain in Guyana regardless of being in breach of immigration laws; Venezuelans have been allowed to remain automatically since 2018. The government was authorized to grant foreign victims temporary residence status and work permits but received no such requests during the reporting period. Foreign victims received services irrespective of their cooperation with law enforcement, their participation in a trial, or whether their trafficker was convicted. The government regularly screened foreign potential victims for trafficking indicators before deportation. The government funded training for 168 MHSSS, labor, compliance, and forestry officials on victim identification and referral.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Ministerial Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons (the Task Force), co-chaired by the Minister of Home Affairs and the MHSSS, coordinated national anti-trafficking efforts and served as the decision-making body. The technical arm of the Task Force included representatives (technical advisors, legal assistants, social workers) of the Ministers who sit on the task force and worked on suggested anti-trafficking activities and engagements including trainings. The Task Force met monthly during the reporting period, while ministerial Task Force sessions met quarterly. The government reported the subcommittee met in emergency session in April 2020, May 2020, and July 2020 outside of its monthly statutory meetings three times to discuss the impact of the pandemic on trafficking in order to improve the government’s response. The government began consultations, including with human trafficking survivors, to draft a National Action Plan (NAP) for 2021–2023, to replace the plan that concluded at the end of 2020. The government provided funding for the completion and implementation of the NAP in the 2021 budget. The government developed an anti-trafficking work plan based on the draft NAP; authorities monitored and evaluated the work plan on a monthly basis. The Task Force created and disseminated a Code of Conduct of ethical standards for its members, including law enforcement officers. The government created a third 24/7 hotline that could accommodate Spanish speakers for the first time. Authorities planned and executed several sensitization and awareness sessions in mining and logging regions and at secondary schools, NGOs, malls, and markets across the country, and hosted a digital symposium on human trafficking. The government publicized the results of research on the scope and impact of trafficking in the country; the research included the impact on human trafficking trends from the influx of asylum seekers and migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, and Cuba – along with poverty and other vulnerabilities within some communities – through victim testimonies and community outreach and awareness activities. In December 2020, an international organization called on the government to put in place simpler systems for Venezuelan asylum seekers and migrants to access work permits to avoid becoming victims of human trafficking. The government began to develop a human trafficking manual for diplomats and provided training to them. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not have any laws prohibiting employers, recruiters, or labor agents from charging workers recruitment fees, switching contracts without the workers’ consent, or withholding wages as a means of keeping workers in a state of compelled service. Labor officers frequently conducted impromptu visits to work sites and business premises in the mining and logging districts and in the capital city to investigate suspect labor practices and possible violations. The Ministry of Labor also promoted public messaging on the dangers of child labor.
As reported over the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Guyana, and traffickers exploit victims from Guyana abroad. Traffickers exploit victims in labor trafficking in mining, agriculture, forestry, domestic service, and in shops. The government reported 78 percent of human trafficking perpetrators in 2020 were men, predominantly Guyanese; 14 percent of traffickers were from Venezuela, while less than three percent were Dominican and Haitian. NGOs reported that traffickers are often middle-aged men who own or operate nightclubs. Some traffickers are also family members of the victims. Migrants, young people from rural and indigenous communities, and those without education are the most vulnerable to human trafficking. Women and children from Guyana, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Suriname, and Venezuela become sex trafficking victims in mining communities in the interior and urban areas. While both sex trafficking and labor trafficking occur in remote interior mining communities, limited government presence in the country’s interior renders the full extent of trafficking there unknown. Some Cuban nationals working in Guyana may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Traffickers exploit Guyanese nationals in sex and labor trafficking in Suriname, Uruguay, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries.