Human Trafficking in CuracaoEfforts to address human trafficking are now more widespread, but the epidemic continues. Curaçao and other foreign governments are fighting to stop this crime — a consistent battle that requires consistent efforts to eradicate it. Human trafficking in Curaçao stands as a complex issue with no set solution but there is cause for optimism. Many organizations are directing their resources toward human trafficking task forces and prevention. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention measures and progress are the first steps to becoming an advocate.

Human Trafficking: The Basics

More than 35% of the world’s population currently lives on less than $2.00 a day. There are “2.5 billion children, women and men are at risk of human trafficking.” Curaçao identified only three victims of trafficking in 2019 compared to 44 in 2018, indicating a backtrack in progress. The government of Curaçao can do more to identify and help victims of trafficking. Prosecution for traffickers is in place; however, without investigations to pinpoint perpetrators, few incidents reach prosecution.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that uses force, coercion or fraud to exploit sex or labor from victims. The three most common types of human trafficking are sex trade, forced labor and domestic servitude. Any person is at risk of trafficking, yet women and children are disproportionately vulnerable to sex trafficking. In fact, “women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked.”

How Trafficking Links to Poverty

Curaçao’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and therefore, faces fluctuations that explain the nation’s 25% poverty rate. This has become worse with the onset of COVID-19 and travel restrictions. This resulted in a 19.1% unemployment rate in 2020. Poverty is dangerous in itself and brings with it several threats to one’s safety and well-being.

Women and girls are the main targets of sex trafficking in Curaçao. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, these female victims come from countries such as Venezuela, Curaçao and the Dominican Republic. “Bar owners recruit women and girls to work as waitresses or ‘trago girls,’ and subsequently, force them into commercial sex.” Individuals faced with poverty struggle to meet necessities, making them extremely vulnerable to human traffickers. Acknowledging poverty and its direct link to sex or labor trafficking vulnerability is the first step to dismantling it.

This Dutch Caribbean island, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is on the Tier 2 Watchlist for human trafficking. This ranking shows that Curaçao is making efforts to alleviate human trafficking within its borders but is still not meeting the minimum standards of elimination. The primary reason for the country’s underperformance is a lack of funding since the implementation of its written plan would meet minimum standards. Curaçao’s government also lacks adequate protection, prosecution and prevention.

Trafficking affects locals and tourists in Curaçao. In 2019, displaced Venezuelans who were working illegally and overstaying their visas held a high risk of trafficking in Curaçao. The Kingdom of the Netherlands’ involvement is crucial for anti-trafficking efforts, which puts it in a position of leadership and funding. The Netherlands is responsible for foreign policy in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

Combating Human Trafficking is a Global Effort

Countries should work together to fight human trafficking. Due to these crimes’ international occurrence, it is every country’s responsibility to do its part. Interpol, the global police organization, works exclusively to prevent international crime, making it a significant activist in the fight against trafficking.

Operation Libertad, coordinated by the Interpol Global Task Force on Human Trafficking, joined forces with 13 different countries, including Curaçao. It rescued nearly 350 victims of sexual and labor exploitation in 2018. Interpol exemplified how creating a platform is powerful. It has more than 500 participating police officers arresting traffickers. Efforts and projects like Operation Libertad are in progress around the world.

Other methods of improvement are underway, such as training and educational seminars. In 2021, the Dutch Caribbean Islands received training from the U.S. Department of Justice Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, solidifying the communal cooperation to fight human trafficking. The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) pushes for legislation to combat trafficking with “more than 80 non-government organizations” and support from countries such as the Netherlands. Many more organizations exist and each plays an essential part in eliminating human trafficking in Curaçao.

Help End Human Trafficking in Curaçao

The U.S. Department of State gives 20 different ways one can help fight human trafficking. Human trafficking in Curaçao will improve with consistent efforts. Global efforts present a hopeful future for trafficking victims but stringent measures are the only ways to ensure such hope. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention measures and progress are the first steps to becoming an advocate.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr