Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2018. 9:43 am CST.
By BBN Staff: Human Trafficking Search (HTS), an international non-profit organization that raises awareness about human trafficking worldwide, has called out Belize and the government for its lack of progress in improving its rating in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
Belize was the only Central/South American country that received a Tier 3 rating, the worst possible rating given out by the US State Department. Tier 3 countries include “countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards to combat human trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so”.
In the HTS article written by Sonia Lunn, the HTS asserts “Although the prime minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, refutes the U.S. State Department’s claims that his government is complicit– the data collected by the State Department challenges that. In 2018 the Government of Belize did not investigate any public officials for complicity (despite many serious allegations). Law enforcement officials are not only untrained in handling trafficking cases but many are actively involved in protecting traffickers. It is not uncommon for off-duty police officers to work as security-for-hire at brothels.”
HTS noted, however, that in the aftermath of the report Belize’s police commissioner, Allen Whylie, has stated that police will no longer be allowed to perform these “special duties” after the 2018 TIP report specifically called out his police force over this heinous practice. “We can only hope his words lead to meaningful reform,” the HTS said. “Little has been done to prosecute traffickers, despite the creation of a dedicated anti-trafficking police force in 2017. In 2018, Belize’s government decreased efforts to prosecute traffickers, failing to convict a single trafficker for the second consecutive year. Belize is a “source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor” (2018 TIP Report). The number (0) of convictions does not reflect the severity of the trafficking situation in Belize but rather is a measure of the government’s utter complacency in the matter,” the HTS added.
The organization, however, commended Belize for its recent efforts to combat human trafficking within the country. “The recent agreement, signed by Allen Whylie (Belize’s Commissioner of Police) on October 25th 2018, is a hopeful sign that Belize is making an effort to move out of Tier 3,” it said. The four-year agreement provides the beginning of an infrastructure for the anti-trafficking police to start making headway against Belize’s trafficking industry. This infrastructure looks like office space and vehicles for the anti-trafficking force to use for investigations, training, and interviewing victims. It also provides stipulations for essential training and resources needed for the force to effectively handle trafficking cases. This agreement was signed in Washington, DC in partnership with the Human Trafficking Institute following a 2014 delegation of Belize’s top law enforcement officials at the institute.
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