Gov’t says US report on human trafficking in Guyana ‘difficult pill to swallow’

The Guyana Government has come out swinging at the US State Department’s report on trafficking in persons in Guyana calling it a “difficult pill to swallow” and a report that is not factual since the architects did not make “significant progress in improving the veracity, coherence and validity of their annual assessments.” In its annual report issued on June 19, the State Department contended that Guyana has made no discernible progress in holding human trafficking offenders accountable. It added that limited progress was made in preventing human trafficking during the reporting period. Like in 2011, Guyana remains on Tier 2 in the latest report, which says that government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. “Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Guyanese nationals have been subjected to human trafficking in other countries in the Caribbean region. Cases of human trafficking reported in the media generally involved women and girls in forced prostitution,” the report had said, echoing previous editions. The government’s res-ponse, which came through its Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, took umbrage at that statement and challenged the US Embassy to validate this assertion with quantitative data since none was provided. “The report provides no evidence of forced labour; in fact, in a surprisingly strange twist in its analysis, the report accuses government of not doing enough to generate the data to back the ‘claim’ made in the US Report!!,” the release said. According to the release, even though child labour and trafficking in persons can overlap, there are institutional arrangements in Guyana to address each of these issues. In addressing child labour and human smuggling, the release said, the authorities would usually seek to establish where trafficking exists and vice versa. The Task Force said the government has gone about attacking trafficking in persons through the criminal justice system as well as social prevention measures. It listed programmes such as the Hinterland Scholarship Pro-gramme which has expanded over the years, the School Uniform Programme, economic assistance to single mothers, and skills training for youths all are aimed at tackling vulnerabilities and achieving human security. The release accused those behind Guyana’s report of ignoring all the information provided through meaningful dialogue. “A perusal of the report reveals two inescapable inferences; one, the architects had already decided what they wanted to put in the report and two, the architects gave little or no credence to the information presented by government in partnership with NGOs. Consequently, those two factors beg the question of the usefulness of such engagements in future,” the release said. It said this was evident in the report which stated, “the government has not updated its National Plan of Action (NPA) to combat trafficking in persons since 2005”, when during their engagements the Task Force shared with the US the National Plan of Action (NPA) that guided its response for the period 2010-2011. That plan covered prevention and awareness, direct assistance to victims of trafficking and criminal justice response to combat trafficking in persons. Further, the Task Force said, the report stated: “There was evidence that people could be penalized for reporting suspected human trafficking crimes to the police”. However, it indicated, the police investigations into that matter pointed to the possibility that a young female was trafficked and that a family member was apparently complicit in the arrangement.  It was that family member, who had allegedly received a financial reward for her involvement, who reported the incident. “The fact that the family member eventually reported the matter is not sufficient to exonerate her of facilitating a crime,” the release said. Meanwhile, it said, the danger of the unfounded claims and anecdotes that are replete in the US Report “is that even though they are not the product of systematic research nor critical analysis they have nevertheless been published in the local media thus influencing public opinion. “The US Report’s misrepresentation and scaremongering must be refuted because of its impact on the country’s image and the perpetuation of stereotypes and fears. Worst yet, it can lead to a waste of resources and energy, and a reduction in traditional opportunities for personal economic development and educational advancement,” the release said.