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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

You are viewing ARCHIVED CONTENT released online from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021.

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THE BAHAMAS: Tier 1

The Government of The Bahamas fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore The Bahamas remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by securing its first conviction since 2015. The government also screened more potential trafficking victims, increased funding for victim assistance, and collaborated with foreign countries on investigations. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it identified fewer victims and was inconsistent with implementation of screening procedures for vulnerable populations. Credible allegations of corruption raised concerns about vulnerabilities to potential trafficking victims during the reporting period.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE BAHAMAS

Increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and appropriately punish traffickers; increase implementation of the victim identification and referral protocol to identify victims of sex and labor trafficking, especially among vulnerable groups; increase training for judges on a victim-centered approach and provide victims alternatives to in-person cross-examination in court; increase grassroots outreach to potential trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, in partnerships with NGOs; continue to provide all identified victims with adequate protection and assistance; appoint a secretariat to oversee all anti-trafficking efforts; strengthen engagement with officials involved in anti-trafficking activities in other countries in the region; begin drafting a new anti-trafficking national action plan; develop and provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel; and continue to implement a nationwide public awareness campaign to educate the public and officials about human trafficking and its manifestations in The Bahamas, including the distinction between trafficking and smuggling.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention and Suppression) Act 2008 criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties ranging from three years to life imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, alleged ongoing corruption within the Immigration Department remained a concern, as it created vulnerabilities for potential trafficking victims.

Authorities initiated 12 new investigations (two labor trafficking and 10 sex trafficking) involving 60 potential victims, compared with 11 new investigations involving 37 potential victims in 2016. Authorities ultimately determined only one of these cases (involving one victim) to constitute trafficking. Authorities initiated two prosecutions, compared to one in 2016, and continued three prosecutions from previous years. The government recorded its first conviction since 2015 and sentenced the convicted trafficker to 21 years imprisonment. The Magistrate’s Court acquitted three alleged traffickers prosecuted in the previous reporting period; the government’s appeal of those acquitted was withdrawn due to lack of sworn witness testimony. Government officials funded and delivered training to over 200 police officers, 165 immigration officers, and a number of community members including family service employees, church leaders, and school health nurses, on the Bahamian anti-trafficking law, trafficking indicators, and both victim identification and assistance. The government continued work with an international organization and four governments to finalize a law enforcement cooperation agreement. The government cooperated with two governments on trafficking investigations during the reporting period, with one leading to the reported conviction of a Bahamian national.

PROTECTION

The government maintained limited efforts to protect victims. Authorities continued to implement a formal victim-centered protocol to guide front-line responders in identifying both sex and labor trafficking victims and referring them to services. However, concerns remained on the thoroughness of their application when dealing with vulnerable populations, such as migrants. The national trafficking commission funded and trained member agencies and ministries in their roles in identifying and protecting victims and making referrals. During the reporting period, the government screened 60 potential trafficking victims and identified one victim, compared with screening 37 potential victims and identifying five victims in 2016. The identified victim received an immigration certificate, government-funded housing, and medical, psychological, legal, and reintegration assistance.

The government reported spending approximately 82,060 Bahamian dollars ($82,060) on trafficking victims’ care—which included assisting victims’ children and continued funding for trafficking victims from prior reporting periods—compared to 59,450 Bahamian dollars ($59,450) in 2016. The government also provided subsidies of 240,000 Bahamian dollars ($240,000) to four NGOs that provide services to trafficking victims, among other vulnerable groups. The government granted one foreign victim relief from deportation. Migrants remained vulnerable to rapid arrest and summary deportation by Royal Bahamian Defense forces without proper trafficking screening, and ineffective screening of other vulnerable populations for indicators of trafficking, such as those in prostitution, may have led to arrests of victims. Authorities encouraged trafficking victims to assist in prosecutions by providing lodging, food, a stipend, clothing and other basic necessities, medical assistance and psychological counseling, immigration relief, legal assistance, support during court proceedings, and witness protection, which may include police protection as needed. Government assistance was not contingent upon cooperation by victims. Bahamian law permits victim testimony via live television links and for the reading of written statements into evidence; however, in 2016, a magistrate acquitted three traffickers in part because the victims could not be cross-examined. The identified victim during the reporting period chose to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their cases. The anti-trafficking act authorized the court to order convicted defendants to pay restitution to victims; however, such restitution was not ordered in 2017.

PREVENTION

The government maintained prevention efforts. The inter-ministerial committee to coordinate anti-trafficking policy met monthly, as did the government’s anti-trafficking task force, which was charged with operational coordination on cases. The government did not make public any assessments of its anti-trafficking efforts. The government continued a campaign to educate students, vulnerable populations, faith communities, the public, and government officials about trafficking, including pamphlets in English and Creole, public service announcements on television and radio, and video shared via social media. The government partnered with NGOs to implement its comprehensive 2014-2018 national anti-trafficking strategy and detailed action plan. The government dedicated finances and resources to implement the plan.

The Department of Labor raised awareness in the business community, distributed pamphlets about labor trafficking and workers’ rights, advised potential job seekers about potential fraud in the cruise ship industry, and screened for indicators of trafficking when inspecting work sites. The Department of Labor did not continue a past practice of sending informative letters to foreign nationals with work permits and advising employers of the prohibition against document retention. The government conducted awareness efforts targeted at potential clients of prostitution and conducted random inspections of businesses, including strip clubs and bars, to identify sex trafficking. Authorities did not consider child sex tourism to be a problem in The Bahamas and reported no such investigations, although it developed a special pamphlet on child trafficking, trained tourism officials, and placed pamphlets in tourism information booths. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. While no trafficking-specific hotline exists, the Ministry of Social Services and an NGO maintained hotlines for victims of abuse.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, The Bahamas is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Migrant workers, especially those from Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Philippines, are recruited through false offers of employment, such as through advertisements in foreign newspapers; upon arrival, traffickers subject them to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude and in sectors with low-skilled labor. Children born in The Bahamas to foreign-born parents who do not automatically receive Bahamian citizenship, and individuals involved in prostitution and exotic dancing are vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers previously confiscated victims’ passports with greater regularity, but more recently they have victims retain their documents in case they are questioned by law enforcement.

U.S. Department of State

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