[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

The Netherlands Antilles (Tier 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

The five islands of the current Netherlands Antilles are a transit and destination point for men and women from Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other parts of South America and the Caribbean, trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. The women in prostitution in the Netherlands Antilles’ regulated and illegal sex trades are highly vulnerable to human trafficking. Credible reports have alleged the trafficking of over 100 Cuban construction workers employed by the Curacao Dry Dock Company in 2006—a case that garnered significant international press during the reporting period as a result of a related civil case in a U.S. court. Local authorities believe that men and women have also been trafficked into local domestic servitude as well as into the agriculture and construction industries. Groups vulnerable to labor trafficking include Haitian males in the agriculture and gardening sectors and Latin American and Caribbean males in construction. There is anecdotal evidence that some Middle Eastern and Asian migrants in restaurants and local businesses may be vulnerable to debt bondage.

The Government of the Netherlands Antilles does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall efforts, the government is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government has not enacted anti-trafficking legislation, although during the reporting period legislation was introduced, processed and awaits final action. The government also did not develop and fund victim assistance policies and programs or raise awareness among clients of the sex trade and beneficiaries of forced labor about the causes and consequences of human trafficking. As noted above in the Netherlands narrative, in January 2009 the justice ministers of the Netherlands Antilles, the Netherlands, and Aruba signed a memorandum of understanding to promote increased anti-trafficking cooperation.

Recommendations for the Netherlands Antilles: Enact legislation criminalizing all forms of human trafficking; vigorously prosecute and convict sex and labor trafficking offenders throughout the Netherlands Antilles; establish formal procedures to guide officials in the proactive identification of trafficking victims and referral of these victims to service providers; consider ways to educate clients of the sex trade and beneficiaries of forced labor about the causes and consequences of trafficking.

The Netherlands Antilles’ anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts were greatly hindered by the absence of specific anti- trafficking legislation. A draft amendment to the Netherlands Antilles penal code prohibiting trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor remained pending in the Antillean Parliament during the reporting period. There were two likely cases of human trafficking that officials in St. Maarten prosecuted using statutes prohibiting other non-trafficking offenses. In May 2008, a man who had held three women in a brothel against their will was convicted and sentenced to 36 months in prison for human smuggling and ill-treatment. Another man was detained briefly on allegations of keeping a household servant locked in his house. A court required the man to pay the domestic servant’s outstanding wages and the costs associated with the servant’s repatriation. Antillean authorities cooperated with Suriname’s request that the Dutch extradite several traffickers who fled to Curacao during a trafficking-related law enforcement action. Funding for and staffing of police and judicial offices remained a chronic problem in the Netherlands Antilles. Local media reported on corruption related to the issuance of immigration and work permits, though these did not involve specific trafficking allegations. The government provided training to individual prosecutors and members of the islands’ police departments and has systematic anti-trafficking training in place for law enforcement authorities.

The government’s victim protection efforts were mostly ad hoc during the reporting period. Trafficking victims received limited assistance through a combination of government agencies and NGOs that receive some government subsidies in the Netherlands Antilles, including the Bureau for Aid to Victims in Curacao and the Women’s Desk in St. Maarten. There were no specific trafficking victim health care facilities in the Netherlands Antilles, but government health care providers were available to assist trafficking victims. The legal system allows witnesses to trafficking crimes to provide anonymous testimony or testimony from abroad. Island governors had the authority to issue temporary residency status for trafficking victims; it is unknown if any were issued. The government does provide long-term shelter for trafficking victims. In practice, consulates representing source countries often handled assistance to and repatriation of their citizens. The government does not employ formal procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification among vulnerable groups, such as women in government-regulated prostitution zones, and to guide officials in referring victims to available service providers. Curacao has one legal, government regulated brothel compound with approximately 90 foreign women in prostitution. International organizations have expressed strong concern about the working conditions -- including possible involuntary servitude at this brothel. The government did not train health officials charged with regulating the Curacao brothel on identifying trafficking indicators and referring suspected victims for assistance. The justice ministry reiterated a directive in 2008 prohibiting immigration officials from holding the passports of foreign women entering the islands for the purpose of legal prostitution. One official in Curacao reported that some officials practiced proactive identification measures within detention facilities. There were no reported cases of victims being penalized during the reporting period for crimes that were a direct result of being trafficked. The government espoused a policy of encouraging trafficking victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders, but officials acknowledged that many victims were reluctant to participate.

The government made some efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking during the reporting period but did not undertake any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Formal interagency anti-trafficking working groups operated in Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten during the reporting period. The anti-trafficking coordinator based in Curacao spoke out about the problem of human trafficking in the region and continued to promote an IOM-developed public awareness campaign. The anti-trafficking coordinator in Curacao also arranged for a short awareness raising documentary video to be aired on local television stations. Netherlands Antilles officials issued a contract for an outside evaluation of their anti-trafficking strategy in 2008. The government provided in-kind support for two human trafficking hotlines in the Netherlands Antilles. There were no awareness campaigns specifically targeting potential clients of the sex trade or beneficiaries of forced labor in the Netherlands Antilles


Footnote: The Netherlands Antilles is a semi-autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Kingdom Charter divides responsibility among the three co-equal parts of the Kingdom based on jurisdiction and matter. For the purpose of this report, the Netherlands Antilles is not a “country” to which the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act apply. This narrative reflects how the Antilles would be assessed if it were a separate, independent country.