The Ministries of Home Affairs and Human Services and Social Security were pleased to acknowledge the release of the US Department of State 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report which noted that Guyana has been assigned a “Tier 1” status for the seventh consecutive year.
Tier 1 means that a country has been fully compliant with the minimum standards for the elimination of severe forms of trafficking in persons.
The ministries said this is a testament of the hard work and dedication of the Ministerial Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons. That body is co-chaired by Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn and Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud.
They also gave due credit to Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and all other stakeholders who assisted through increased reporting, training, awareness, proactive investigations, victim protection and international and local partnership.
Importantly, both ministers noted that the 2023 US State Department Report has recognized Guyana’s efforts for convicting three (3) traffickers, identifying more victims and referring them to victim support services, consistently implementing a 10 day – reflection period for victims, and raising awareness in Indigenous languages.
Guyana was also recognized for expanding the inclusivity of the Ministerial Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons, establishment of a new interviewing and screening centre, continuous training of law-enforcement officials, and initiating a programme to screen children in situations of homelessness.
Further, the report has included a number of recommendations that will enhance Guyana’s efforts to combat this crime and offer greater support to victims of human trafficking. Both ministers welcomed these recommendations and have commenced efforts to implement same.
Some of the recommendations emanating from the 2023 report focused on further increasing investigations and prosecution of sex and labour trafficking cases, review of existing legislation on labour requirement practices in Guyana, increasing the number of Labour Inspectors, enforce restitution orders, and reduce the reliance on victims to serves as witnesses in prosecution cases.
To this end, the Ministry of Home Affairs and other key Task Force member agencies, and stakeholders are expected to incorporate these recommendations into their work plans.
It should be noted that for the first half of 2023, the Guyana Police Force – Trafficking in Persons Unit investigated 21 reported trafficking in persons’ cases, of which, 244 alleged victims were interviewed and screened, 23 being under 18 years of age.
Further, five persons were officially charged and placed before the court between January- May, 2023 for offences ranging from trafficking in persons, assault, forgery of currency notes and the operation of a Brothel.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has recommended that one of the alleged perpetrators, who was charged and sentenced to prison for the operation of a Brothel in May, 2023, be further charged with two counts of trafficking in persons. The Guyana Police Force – TIP Unit will institute these charges shortly.
Another noteworthy achievement is the fact that 170 law enforcement and community policing groups were trained on the indicators of human trafficking and migrant smuggling along with national referral mechanisms in place to reporting such acts. Awareness and sensitization was also done with a number of secondary school students in Regions 1,3, 4, and 6. This was a partnership between the Ministry of Home Affairs, Guyana Police Force and Customs Anti- Narcotics Unit (CANU).
The general public is encouraged to continue to report suspected instances of trafficking in persons by utilizing the 24Hrs English or Spanish TIP Hotline numbers -227-4083 /623-5030 or 624-0079 (Spanish) or to the nearest police station.