US trafficking in person's report maintains 'Tier 2' ranking for Seychelles - government questions “unsubstantiated and unverified” allegations
Expensive shoes and clothing may hide the reality of woman who has been forced to work as an expensive prostitute, who has been trafficked to work in another country against her will. Pictured: Christian Laboutin high heels (Arroser/Wikipedia) Photo License: (CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles has maintained its Tier 2 status in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2015. The annual report, its 15th edition this year, was released by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Washington DC on Monday.
Kerry noted during the launching ceremony that there is a special emphasis on human trafficking in the global marketplace in the 2015 report.
“It highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment and the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking, including a demand for transparency in global supply chains,” said Kerry.
The TIP Report is used by the U.S. government as a diplomatic tool to engage other countries on human trafficking.
The Indian Ocean island nation of around 90,000 inhabitants was upgraded to the Tier 2 category in 2014 up from the Tier 2 Watchlist in which Seychelles featured for two consecutive year’s, in 2012 and 2013.
The report explains that the Tier 2 is given to countries whose “governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”
In maintaining Seychelles ranking for a second consecutive year the TIP Report 2015 identifies the country “as a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to labour and sex trafficking, respectively.”
“…The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenders and did not identify any trafficking victims. The government deports migrant workers working for state-owned or private companies for participating in strikes to protest poor employment conditions without conducting comprehensive investigations and screenings to identify if the individuals were victims of forced labor,” reads the report.
The publication states, however, that although it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking the Seychelles government is making significant efforts to do so.
“During the reporting period, the government adopted anti-trafficking legislation and began implementation of the 2014-2015 national action plan. The national anti-trafficking committee, in collaboration with international donors, began the development of a victim assistance tool and conducted an extensive national awareness campaign on trafficking,” reads the report.
In February last year, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, also warned that human trafficking in the Seychelles, with its regular influx of tourists and migrant workers, was “insidious” and remained hidden due to a lack of awareness.
Opposition party politicians and newspapers in the island nation have also in the past speculated on the alleged sex trafficking of young foreign women by rich foreign tourists coming on holiday to the country, however the allegations were not substantiated with evidence and did not result in court cases.
New legislation was passed in the National Assembly to address incidents of human trafficking in April 2014, where traffickers face up to 25 years in jail and a fine of up to SCR800,000 (around $56,000) for human trafficking if found guilty.
As part of the country’s National Action Plan and Strategic Framework, a nationwide campaign was also launched in November last year to come up with new initiatives to combat any instances of human trafficking in the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago of 90,000 people. This included the launching of a new website which Seychellois can refer to for more information on the different forms of human trafficking and what to do if they detect a case.
While it has welcomed the report’s observation of Seychelles’ efforts to combat human trafficking the island nation’s government has said it is "unfortunate” that the new publication had not done away with allegations featured in the report regarding "instances of human trafficking" in the country.
In a press statement issued yesterday the island nation’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport, Joel Morgan said the allegations were “unsubstantiated and unverified.”
“Seychelles is a strong proponent of frank dialogues and constructive criticism with and from its international partners on human rights issues, but emphasized that in order for effective changes to be realized, such dialogues must be based on factual assessments rather than unsubstantiated and unverified information which are not reflective of the real situation in the country,” reads the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transport.
Morgan nevertheless welcomed recommendations that have come out of the TIP Report.
This includes calls for regular and comprehensive inspection of migrant workers’ work sites to be conducted and for migrant workers to be informed of their rights.
The need for special training to government officials on how to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to appropriate services is also one of the recommendations, which according to the foreign affairs ministry will be catered for with the launching next week of a "Standard Operating Procedure and Referral Manual for Victims of Trafficking in Persons" followed by a training session.
Other recommendations that the TIP Report is proposing for Seychelles include using the newly adopted anti-trafficking legislation to investigate and prosecute trafficking offences and convict and punish trafficking offenders as well as the amendment of the penal code "to harmonize the duplicative and contradictory sections addressing sexual offences" particularly those related to the exploitation of children in prostitution.
In the 2015 Trafficking in Persons report, three countries, Belarus, the Marshall Islands and the Indian Ocean island of the Comoros have been downgraded from the Tier 2 Watchlist to Tier 3, which groups countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Trafficking in persons may take different forms. According to United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC)'s 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons some 53 percent of the victims detected in 2011 were subjected to sexual exploitation, whereas forced labour accounted for about 40 percent of the total number of victims.
Figures available on the International Labour Organisation, ILO’s website, reveal that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour among which 11.4 million are women and girls while the remaining 9.5 million are men and boys.