2018 Trafficking in Persons Report

Op-Ed by U.S. Consul General Margaret D. Hawthorne

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons or modern slavery, is a crime of exploitation in which a trafficker compels an individual into service for commercial sex or labor or both using a number of coercive or deceptive practices to keep their victims from speaking out or asking for help. There are an estimated 25 million victims of human trafficking
throughout the world, trapped in a multi-billion dollar industry that weakens the rule of law and strengthens criminal networks.
On June 28, at the United States Department of State, Secretary Michael R. Pompeo released the 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, an annual publication documenting the efforts of 187 governments in combating human trafficking. The report is important not only as a diplomatic tool to encourage governments, including the United States, to do more to address human trafficking, but also as a snapshot of global trends and activity on this front. It stresses the importance of comprehensive anti-trafficking laws, victim-centered law enforcement, trauma-informed care, and programs and policies that keep people from being exploited.
National governments bear the primary responsibility in combating human trafficking, but they cannot do it alone. This year, the introduction to the TIP Report highlights the importance of local communities in safeguarding the places they call home from the insidious effects of human trafficking. It encourages national governments to support and empower those closest to the problem as they face the challenges and consequences of modern slavery.
The impetus for community-based action can come from any number of sources—a concerned local official, an NGO raising the alarm, law enforcement investigating the crime, or an individual who simply wants to be a part of the solution. Once support has been garnered, there are several important steps a community can take to bolster its response.
The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are strong partners in the fight against modern slavery. Aruba has been raised to Tier 1 in the 2018 Report. While, of course, this does not mean that there is not more work to be done, it does reflect the strides that Aruba has made to increase awareness, training, prevention, protection, and prosecutions over the past year.
Sint Maarten was designated as a Special Case. In September 2017, the island experienced massive devastation by Hurricane Irma, the worst Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The hurricane greatly impeded the government’s ability to report on efforts made prior to September and the prospects for additional progress in the remainder of the reporting period.
Curacao kept their solid Tier 2 ranking. The Government of Curaçao does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Curaçao remained on Tier 2.
First, it is important that communities build multi-stakeholder partnerships among all levels of government and between law enforcement, service providers, survivors of human trafficking, and other key community actors. Creating a task force may be one of the best ways to ensure coordination among the many facets of a comprehensive anti-trafficking strategy.
Second, communities, with support from their national governments, can conduct an assessment to help better understand who may be most vulnerable to human trafficking, what services currently exist, and what gaps need to be addressed.
Third, targeted training and awareness-raising efforts for those who may come into contact with victims of human trafficking are critical to a local response. Professionals, and especially those likely to interact with victims such as doctors, teachers, judicial officials, law enforcement officers, and business-owners, should be trained to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and know how to seek assistance. In addition, community-based organizations such
as women’s, immigrant advocacy, and religious groups are well-placed to raise awareness among their members, who are often the eyes and ears of their communities.
Fourth, communities can develop processes and protocols that ensure victims are proactively identified and provided with comprehensive emergency, short-, and long-term care. Such a protocol can help to leverage resources and expertise, create standards for a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach, and be a conduit for sharing information.
Ultimately, the message of this year’s report speaks to the power of local knowledge and the strength of community ties. Modern slavery is a reality here in the Dutch Caribbean just as it is a reality in every region and country of the world. The U.S. Consulate General on Curacao remains committed to working with the governments of the Dutch Caribbean to find ways to contribute to the solution. In doing so, we all take steps to end human trafficking.
Hyperlink: 2018 TIP Report
To see how you can help in the fight against human trafficking, see the U.S. Department of State’s “15 Ways” Factsheet.
Fact sheet: President Donald J. Trump is Working to End Human Trafficking