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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                               


In this small, essentially private-enterprise economy, tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments.

Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and unsustainable foreign debt equivalent to nearly 70% of GDP.

A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Belize

Belize is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. The most common form of trafficking in Belize is the internal sex trafficking of minors, particularly situations where poor families push their school-aged daughters to provide sexual favors to wealthy older men in exchange for school fees, money, and gifts..   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here or a-full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Belize.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include possible precursors of trafficking such as poverty. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

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Belize joins anti human trafficking network

Jacqueline Godwin for News Five, April 26, 2006

[accessed 22 January 2011]

SAID MUSA, PRIME MINISTER - “Belize though a small multi-cultural Central American and Caribbean nation has already been shown to demonstrate various vulnerabilities, such as: easily accessible border crossings, a long coastline for maritime access and other institutional considerations. It is therefore incumbent on us to take preventative action to ensure that we do not become a haven for those who are intent on exploiting others.”


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Belize

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 11 May 2021]


Resources and inspections to enforce compliance were insufficient. Forced labor of both Belizean and foreign women occurred in bars, nightclubs, and domestic service. Migrant men, women, and children were at risk for forced labor in agriculture, fishing, and the service sector, including restaurants and shops, particularly among the South Asian and Chinese communities.


Schooling is mandatory until age 14, and many poorer parents withdraw their children from school on their 14th birthday to put them to work in the informal sector. Children working for their parents are exempt from many of the protections provided in the formal system. Officers of the Ministry of Education are unable to act legally against parents who withdraw their child from school against their child’s wishes.

Some children were vulnerable to forced labor, particularly in the informal agricultural and service sectors. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred (see section 6, Children). According to the most recent data available from the Statistical Institute of Belize from 2013, the country’s child labor rate was 3.2 percent, with half of those children involved in hazardous work. The problem was most prevalent in rural areas. Boys accounted for 74 percent of children illegally employed, mostly engaged in hazardous activities.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 8 July 2020]


Some legal protections against exploitative working conditions are respected and enforced. However, Belizean and foreign women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking, and migrant workers are sometimes subjected to forced labor in agriculture, fisheries, and retail businesses. The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 2019 noted two new trafficking prosecutions, the first in four years, and increased resources for the antitrafficking police unit. However, the report also noted that “the government did not investigate or prosecute any public officials for complicity in trafficking-related offenses, despite allegations of official complicity.”

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 15 April 2019]

[accessed 23 April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 148]

Among Belize’s ethnic groups, Mennonites had the highest percentage of child labor with approximately 9.5 percent of Mennonite children engaged in child labor. (8; 13; 11) Non-Mennonite children are also engaged in child labor on Mennonite-owned land. (10) Children working on Mennonite land often use dangerous tools like machetes, tractors, and ploughs, and work long hours in the sun without proper hydration. (13; 10)

Children in Belize are also engaged in child labor in diving and fishing for fish, lobster, and conch. (11) Many of these children cannot swim and have been injured working with dangerous tools such as anchors, fish traps, chipping hammers, and spears. (11)

Girls from impoverished communities and LGBTI children are particularly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and labor trafficking in Belize. (17; 16; 15) Children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in areas frequented by tourists or seasonal workers, including oil truckers and citrus workers. (2; 15) Anecdotal reports also indicate that teenage boys ages 12–17 from Belize City and San Pedro Town were recruited to transport and sell drugs. (13; 11; 16).

Human Trafficking Concerns in the Commonwealth Caribbean: the 2009 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report in focus [PDF]

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) London, June 2009

[accessed 22 January 2011]


1. Belize is a source, transit, and destination country for people (including children) trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. Internal trafficking for sexual exploitation is also a concern, especially when poorer families often feel obliged or, pressured to compel girls to engage in sexual activity in exchange for payment.

2. In 2008 Belize was placed in Tier 2, however, the 2009 TIP Report has moved Belize into the Watch List category largely in response to its failure to prosecute human trafficking offences properly. The government of Belize has made significant efforts to raise awareness and increase efforts of prevention and protection. For example, there has been increased anti-trafficking training made available for police and social workers. There are also government sponsored residential care facilities available for victims of trafficking and the government is supportive of local anti-trafficking NGOs. The prosecution of offenders however remains inadequate and the Report found disturbing incidences of official involvement in trafficking, often associated with corruption.

3. Human trafficking is prohibited under Belize domestic law by the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Act of 2003. Punishment for those prosecuted under this act constitutes one to five years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Tough as these penalties are, they are not proportionate to penalties for other serious criminal offences such as rape, which carries a penalty of eight years to life imprisonment. The laws are also not adequately enforced and there were no convictions last year despite a number of cases being brought to trial. As it currently stands one prosecution was dismissed, two remain pending and another pending appeal.

Belize finally taken off Tier 3 human trafficking list

Janelle Chanona, Reporting, News 5, September 28, 2006

[accessed 19 April 2012]

The Musa administration is tonight breathing a sigh of relief following an announcement by the United States government that Belize has been removed from the list of Tier Three countries with regard to Human Trafficking.

In June Belize was one of six countries placed on a Tier Three list by the U.S. for "not meeting minimum standards to fight trafficking in persons, a criminal practice". Since then the government has launched a number of public education campaigns and other initiatives on the issue and while several arrests have been made, as yet no one has been convicted.

Organization team up to fight trafficking in persons

Love FM, August 21, 2006

[accessed 19 April 2012]

Several organizations have teamed up to fight trafficking in persons or human trafficking in Belize. Today those agencies began a two-day workshop to look closer at the problem. We spoke with Director of Immigration and Nationality, Carmen Zetina, says he does not see human trafficking as a grave problem in Belize.

O.A.S. trains officials to fight human trafficking

Jacqueline Godwin, reporting, News 5, August 01, 2006

[accessed 19 April 2012]

The training of trainers session will arm the participants--mainly law enforcement officials--with the information to help them be able to identify victims and perpetrators of the crime. The police, customs and immigration officers are then expected to include the training in their work place. This latest initiative—aside from being the right thing to do--is also one more effort to get Belize off the tier three list established by the U.S. Department of State in its annual investigation into worldwide human trafficking. Is progress being made? Police Commissioner Gerald Westby believes the answer is yes.

Annual Report Of Activities By The Anti-Trafficking In Persons Section Of The Organization Of American States - April 2005 To March 2006 [DOC]

Inter-American Commission Of Women, Organization Of American States, 27 March 2006

[accessed 22 January 2011]

BELIZE - In Belize City, in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the OAS/CIM organized a two-day training seminar on combating trafficking in persons on April 14-15, 2005. The seminar was attended by 60 representatives of Belize’s Trafficking in Persons Task Force, Department of Human Services, Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, the police, and the press. Also represented were the consulates and embassies of Mexico, China, and the United States. The main aim of the seminar was to provide training and strengthen cooperation among the country’s agencies, and it also addressed such key areas as best research practices, trafficking in human lives from China in the western hemisphere, a panel session on sexual tourism, and the mental consequences of trafficking in persons. This training seminar served to heighten public awareness about the problem of trafficking in persons in general and about the local context in particular.

Immigration director’s cousin arrested for trafficking

News 5, July 28, 2006

[accessed 19 April 2012]

Esquivel's story is that her employer, Zetina, had initially hired her to work in a restaurant. But shortly after her arrival in Corozal, she was repeatedly asked to sexually satisfy male patrons at the Caracol Bar. Esquivel claims she said no to the requests, but that Zetina refused to pay her for her work. When she went to a friend to get help, Esquivel says she was ambushed and beaten by persons believed to be acting on her boss's behalf.

Extra House businessman busted on alleged human trafficking

Angel Novelo, The Reporter, 30.06.2006

[Last accessed 22 January 2011]

A Belize City businessman of Extra House supermarket was on Monday arraigned on charges of trafficking in human cargo, namely six counts of illegally holding the travel documents of six individuals of indian decent.

There have been widespread reports of several Indian and Chinese businesses operating across the country known to bring these individuals in to work while witholding their travel documents.

P.M. rebuts U.S. criticism on human trafficking

News 5, June 07, 2006

[accessed 19 April 2012]

SAID MUSA, PRIME MINISTER - “That Belize is now lumped and almost put in a box so to speak with, Belize, Venezuela and Cuba; I don’t think its pure coincidence. Because, when you analyze the issue of human trafficking, we have done a lot in this country to address this issue. Police, the immigration, people have raided constantly in addressing this issue of prostitution for instance and the whole question of human trafficking we’ve done a lot. But those who seek to judge us should perhaps examine their own decadent societies before they come and pass judgment on us.”

Salvadoran child may be victim of human trafficking

News 5, April 28, 2006

[accessed 19 April 2012]

But what would a small Salvadoran be doing in Belize unaccompanied? That's the scary question police are now trying to answer. If you have any information that may assist authorities, please contact the nearest police station or call 0-800-922-TIPS.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 28 January 2005

[accessed 22 January 2011]

[67] The Committee welcomes the adoption in 2003 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act, which provides special protection for children, and the subsequent establishment of a special Task Force to give greater effect to the implementation of the Act, and notes the State party’s efforts to combat sexual exploitation of children, for instance, through the “Stamp Out Child Abuse” campaign. Notwithstanding these positive steps taken by the State party, the Committee is concerned about the sexual exploitation of children, child pornography and trafficking of children in Belize and draws attention to the existing risk factors, such as the growing tourism.

The Protection Project - Belize

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

[accessed 22 February 2016]

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE TRAFFICKING INFRASTRUCTURE - Throughout the Central American region, “machismo” attitudes are prevalent, and women are often viewed as sexual objects. Interfamily violence, the breakdown of families, and poverty push young people to leave their homes and communities to search for better lives.

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Many of the teenage girls and children trafficked into the country from neighboring Central American countries are forced to work in domestic service, as bar maids, and in prostitution.


The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 22 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Belize is considered a transit and destination country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation. Girls are also trafficked internally for commercial exploitation and to work in pornography.  The practice of selling female children to older men for sexual purposes has been reported to occur throughout the country.

2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 17 March 2019]

[accessed 24 June 2019]


Forced labor of both Belizean and foreign women occurred in bars, nightclubs, and domestic service. Migrant men, women, and children were at risk for forced labor in agriculture, fishing, and in the service sector, including restaurants and shops, particularly among the South Asian and Chinese communities.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – During the year the government's efforts to identify trafficking victims were weakened by inadequate investigation and inspection by authorities. There were no reliable estimates of the extent of trafficking. There were reports that women were trafficked to the country from neighboring countries primarily for prostitution and nude dancing. Victims generally lived in squalid conditions in the bars where they worked. Some bar owners reportedly confiscated victims' passports. Agents of the bars and brothels lured women and girls to the country, and they or taxi drivers along the border delivered women to brothels.

There were reports of persons trafficked for labor purposes, including instances of Chinese immigrants being forced to work in local Chinese-owned sweatshops and of children working in activities such as shining shoes or selling newspapers at kiosks. Members of the East Indian community also trafficked persons from India as bonded laborers, holding their passports and paying less than minimum wage

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