The Role Poverty Plays in Human Trafficking in Aruba
Aruba currently ranks on the Tier 2 watchlist for human trafficking according to the United States Department of State. The Tier 2 rank means that a nation’s government does not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards of human trafficking prevention, although the nation in question is making substantial efforts to comply with these standards.

Countries typically end up on a watch list if the U.S. Department of State suspects they have severe or increasing levels of sex trafficking, or if they fail to provide substantial evidence of the work they are doing to prevent trafficking; the latter is a particular problem Aruba’s government faces. Aruba is attempting to make a difference in the way it attacks human trafficking. However, poverty is playing a considerable role in a way that Aruba’s current tactics are not prepared to handle.

The Causes of Sex Trafficking

In order to properly look at how sex trafficking is affecting people in Aruba, it is important to first acknowledge some of the root causes of trafficking. One of the main causes of sex trafficking is poverty. Sex traffickers will exploit low-income families struggling to provide for themselves by offering them false opportunities or offering to buy off their children. Poverty also affects other contributing factors such as lack of education or limited employment opportunities and leads to vulnerable people migrating to new places in search of a better life.

Another important factor to remember is that sex trafficking is able to thrive because an open market exists for it that thrives on traffickers’ fearlessness regarding law enforcement. If sex traffickers believe they can get away with their business, and people continue to contribute to the business, sex trafficking becomes a classic case of supply and demand. This is why education is also so critical to not only the victims but also government and law enforcement officials. If victims fear punishment from law enforcement, they may be less likely to try and reach out for help.

Sex Trafficking in Aruba

In Caribbean countries such as Aruba, women have had to become the primary source of income for their families, which leaves children alone and unsupervised. In some cases, these children may even take up jobs to provide support. Oftentimes, the “support” these children are providing is through sex trafficking.

Migrants in Aruba

Many of the victims of human trafficking in Aruba are foreign and predominantly Venezuelan. Due to political turmoil and socio-economic insecurity, millions of people are migrating out of Venezuela, many of whom are coming to Aruba on visas and remaining past the visa’s expiration. These foreign victims are more at risk due to their situation. As illegal migrants, fear of deportation to the country they fled from can be a powerful motive to do anything to stay. Traffickers frequently exploit people in these positions, believing law enforcement will not protect them.

Traffickers often lure foreign visitors or migrants with false promises. Some of these examples include “a weekend of free entertainment,” opportunities to learn English and openings at modeling agencies or other job-like positions. Another reason these people get sucked into sex trafficking is that they are drowning in debt. These innocent victims looking to make a better life for themselves end up getting trapped in trafficking schemes with seemingly no way out. The “unknown” of the world around them also affects the trust the victims have. Often, the fact that many of these victims are immigrants results in them having trouble placing their trust in officials trying to save them. The victims have had traffickers shatter their ability to trust, so they struggle to place this same trust in officials. For many victims, leaving human trafficking means no source of income and potential for deportation as well. As a result, human trafficking victims hold onto a sense of security in the system for fear of the unknown on the outside.

Aruba’s Measures to Prevent Human Trafficking

With a lack of support, the impoverished victims of human trafficking in Aruba are frequently reluctant to seek help. Aruba has several programs in place to aid in the fight against human trafficking.

  1. Aruba has different committees in place to end human trafficking. These include a Laws and Regulations Committee, Publicity and Awareness Committee, Victim Assistance Committee and Prostitution Policy Committee. Together, they attack the different roots of human trafficking in Aruba.
  2. Much of Aruba’s effort went toward protecting victims of sex trafficking through several different programs to ensure their safety. One particularly useful practice for Aruba has been relocating victims to another island. Options such as these can provide security to victims fearful of retribution. Other efforts in place to help victims included a referral mechanism to guide officials to recognize victims seeking assistance, as well as a hotline, a plan for the construction of a victim shelter and immigration relief. Alternative shelter accommodations underwent negotiation with local NGOs, and risk assessments occurred in order to ensure the safety of the victims within the shelters. This ensures that victims will have a place to turn to once they experience rescue, which may be a substantial need for impoverished victims in particular.
  3. Because many victims of sex trafficking in Aruba are migrants, Aruba also allocates resources and support to non-citizens. One example of this is a residence permit with which non-residents can register with the Census bureau and can receive government assistance normally only accessible to citizens such as healthcare and free legal assistance. This is especially good news for illegal Venezuelans who fear deportation as a result of seeking assistance.
  4. The taskforce’s preventative efforts include organizing campaigns and seminars to help the people of Aruba recognize human trafficking. These seminars go over being aware of the issues, informed about what the government is doing about human trafficking and know what actions to take if they see or experience it. Because of Aruba’s small size, newspaper publications covered the entire public outreach campaign. Social media posts, posters and flyers in four different languages also underwent utilization to spread important information about human trafficking in Aruba. Because of Aruba’s small size, newspaper publications covered the entire public outreach campaign. A local TV station in 2018 also produced a documentary on sex trafficking, an important tool that the government used to train local officials.

These efforts strongly contribute to fighting human trafficking on the educational front. By making people more aware of what trafficking situations they could find themselves in, as well as how to safely get out of them, Aruba is attacking human trafficking at its core. This weakens the power traffickers have over potential victims.

Looking Ahead

Although several programs are supporting victims of human trafficking in Aruba, much more support is necessary. Aruba must allocate more resources to areas like immigration structures and mechanisms, the regulation of prostitution and the escort business and overall human and financial resources in order to best employ its budget to stop human trafficking.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

Why Isn’t Aruba PoorIn 1985, a New York times article stated “Unlike most other Caribbean islands, there are few signs of poverty on Curaçao or Aruba.[…] Air-conditioned automobiles are everywhere, and shops are filled with new American and European products.” Today, Aruba continues to enjoy low crime and a high quality of life.

Defying the Odds

In 2010, Aruba’s unemployment rate was reportedly 10.6 percent. In 2011, the GDP per capita was $25,300, and its GDP growth rate was 1.2 percent in 2014. In 2015, its literacy rate was 97.5 percent. These statistics suggest rather positive economic and social structure compared to the rest of the Caribbean.

Knowing that the Caribbean has a history of extreme poverty and high crime rates in countries like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the question is worth asking: why isn’t Aruba poor?

Unlike most Caribbean nations, Aruba has little vegetation, arid heat and flat land. For this reason, Aruba’s economy could not rely on the typical cash-crop plantation model in the Caribbean during colonialism.

Countries with an economy heavily reliant on cash-crop plantations tended to experience extreme violence under slavery, and rigid social class systems intensified social inequality.

When numerous colonies became independent nations, many were left with a poor foundational political and economic structure, which perpetuated a pattern of unparalleled violence and poverty. In contrast, Aruba has had an entirely different relationship with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, which acquired the island from Spain in 1636, originally used Aruba as livestock farmland for Curaçao because aloe (being the only viable agricultural export) was not in high demand. However, once gold was discovered on the island and mines opened in 1836, Aruba prospered exceedingly until 1924. Why isn’t Aruba poor? Its unique colonial history defined a new path for the Caribbean nation.

Because its economy greatly depended on gold, the country faced economic doom as the mines depleted. Fortunately, the country’s close proximity to Venezuela, a major oil exporter at the time, prompted plans to open oil refineries. Soon, the Exxon oil refinery served as a new reliable source of profit, which became inextricable with community life for many decades.

Oil and its Impacts

However, when the Exxon company closed its refinery in 1985, Aruba faced an imminent economic crisis with an estimated rise of unemployment from 15 percent to 40 percent. Amidst peaceful protest and public outcry, the country would eventually need to find another industry to sustain its economy.

While dealing with the oil refinery crisis, Aruba also pushed for independence from the Antilles Netherlands due to political and economic power struggles with a neighboring nation, Curaçao (also a member of the Antilles). Previously colonized countries across the Caribbean were either newly independent or becoming independent nations at the time, but with independence came other economic and socio-political hardships.

Path to Independence 

After determining that full independence was a national security threat, the country lobbied to remain a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands instead of becoming fully independent (scheduled for 1996). This arrangement with the Netherlands secured a steady source of financing for developmental aid until 2009. Presently, the Dutch government continues to detail defense and foreign affairs while Aruba maintains complete internal independence.

Despite the benefits of its constituency status, no amount of financial and national support from the Netherlands would save Aruba from financial ruin without a new industry. So, why isn’t Aruba poor today? Aruba leveraged its beautiful beaches and perfect weather to promote tourism, which remains a sustainable primary source of income.

However, tourism isn’t the only industry that fuels Aruba’s economy. Other industries include petroleum, bunkering, hospitality and financial and business services. Aruba also exports agriculture products (mainly aloe, fish and livestock), art, machinery, electrical equipment and transport equipment. Aruba has been able to maintain economic security and peace throughout its history because of a beneficial relationship with the Netherlands and positive adaptability to the world economy.

Cassandra Mathelier

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Rate in Aruba
Aruba, a small country in the South Caribbean Sea, has been regarded as a popular vacation spot where tourism continues to thrive. Accounting for 30% of the island’s income, the tourism industry has been on the rise since 1985. This industry has brought an increase in business to the hotel industry as well as construction and the food industry. Tourism has helped create a flourishing economy and contributed to the low poverty rate in Aruba.

These increases of industry have paved the way for an increase in jobs. This contributes to the low unemployment rate, 6.9% as of 2005. Aruba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been estimated at about $23,500 per capita in 2011, which is among the highest in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

The unemployment rate continues to be low due to an abundance of jobs and a stable economy, yet jobs still go unfulfilled. With a focus on tourism, the majority of jobs are concentrated in the tourism industry, whether it be in the hotel industry or otherwise.

Although public debt was recorded as 67% of the GDP in 2013, the inflation rate in 2016 was negative at about minus 0.8%. Like any island nation, Aruba exports only a fraction of what it imports. Partially due to tourism, the island maintains a steady economy, where 1.79 Aruban Florin has consistently been equivalent to $1 since 2012. With more than one million visitors to the island per year, the majority of businesses in tourist areas operate on the U.S. dollar.

Aruba’s tourism industry has continued to thrive in recent years. Increases in the tourism industry have created low unemployment and have contributed to the low poverty rate in Aruba. The tourism industry is expected to continue to prosper in Aruba due to the stable economy and exchange rate. Continued low rates of poverty can also be expected for the near future of Aruba.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Aruba, known for their slogan, “One Happy Island,” is just one of four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It has been a desired tourist spot for vacationers due to its dry and reliably warm climate. Tourism dominates the economy with over one million tourists per year, mainly from the United States.

For an island as small as Aruba, 20 miles long by 6 miles wide, the cost of living in Aruba would seemingly be low. Yet, due to the size of the island, Aruba’s economy primarily depends on tourism as 30 percent of the island’s income, as well as aloe exports and petroleum refining.

In a July 2017 Aruba Economic of Affairs report, 2012 was said to have tourism receipts of 2,504.9 million Aruban Florin. This factor heavily affects the cost of living in Aruba.

In June 2017, $1 was equivalent to 1.79 Aruban Florin. Many businesses operate on the U.S. dollar instead of florins, especially in the resort district.

Compared to the U.S., rent prices are about 31 percent lower in Aruba, and restaurant prices are about 11 percent lower. While housing rent in and out of city centers tends to be significantly less than in the U.S., buying property tends to be more expensive. Costs such as utilities and income tax are often the most expensive part of the cost of living in Aruba.

Due to the poor soil quality and low rainfall, agriculture on the island is limited. This causes Aruba to have an increase in the import of groceries at a 5.75 percent increase over U.S. prices, due to its imports of milk, beef and fruits.

Aruba may rely on those imports to make up everyday grocery items, but the island is known to have the world’s third largest desalination plant. This allows Aruba to produce potable industrial water, makes the island independent from other sources and cuts the cost of bottled water.

Although tourism has been the main source of income for Aruba, imports and exports have continued to heavily influence the cost of living on the island. Aruba may heavily depend on its imports, but the government is making efforts to expand exports as well so as to balance trade and allow a balance in the cost of living as well.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Aruba is a 70 square mile island situated in the southern Caribbean Sea. A frequent travel destination for vacationers, Aruba is known for its blue waters, white sands and diverse culture. However, aside from its beautiful beaches, Aruba is also home to many infectious diseases. Here are 5 of the most common diseases in Aruba.

5 of the Most Common Diseases in Aruba

1. Zika

Although Zika is not a prevalent disease in Aruba, there have been a few cases and “public health officials have reported that mosquitoes in Aruba are infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people.”

Zika could potentially become one of the most common diseases in Aruba because of the island’s mosquito population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that there is no medicine or vaccine to prevent Zika, so the easiest way to avoid getting the disease is by using precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

2. Hepatitis A and E

Travelers to Aruba are encouraged to receive vaccinations for both Hepatitis A and E. These similar diseases are mostly spread through the intake of unclean food or water. Hepatitis A and E are serious diseases that “interfere with the functioning of the liver” and can be a burden to the body for up to a year.

3. Circulatory diseases

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) stated that “diseases of the circulatory system are the leading cause of death in Aruba.” Ailments such as ischemic heart disease and stroke were the top sources of mortality and relatively common diseases in Aruba.

4. Diarrhea

“Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment” according to Red Planet Travel. Caused by consumption of impure food or water, diarrhea can also be associated with nausea, vomiting and fever. To prevent diarrhea, travelers and locals are advised to stay away from eating raw or unpeeled foods and unpasteurized milk or dairy.

Doctors and health professionals recommend bringing an antibiotic to cure diarrhea if it does occur while traveling.

5. Diabetes

The PAHO shared in their Aruba health report that “there is a high prevalence of diabetes in Aruba.” This disease may be common for residents of the island but is not infectious or particularly a concern for visitors.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr