Despite being heavily isolated off the African coast, Seychelles is susceptible to human trafficking concerns. Documented cases of sex trafficking as well as trafficking for labor reflect this. The federal government has made several steps to combat human trafficking in Seychelles, most of which the U.S. Department of State documented.
The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act
The Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act, adopted April 25, 2014, provides for the “prohibition, prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.” This law effectively criminalizes both sex trafficking and trafficking for labor within Seychelles.
For offenses involving adult victims, the punishment is set at a maximum of 14 years imprisonment with a fine of up to $35,457. For offenses involving children, there is a maximum punishment of 25 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $56,731. Conflicting statutes within the penal code created unclear regulations for the age of consent. The understood age of consent is 15 years, but the legal age for majority is 18 years.
The National Action Plan
In 2014, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) worked with the government to develop a National Action Plan against trafficking. This process involved developing a national referral mechanism for victims and establishing standard operating procedures for human trafficking cases. However, the Seychelles government did not implement the plan at the end of the 2021 reporting period.
Reports indicated that there were three cases of human trafficking in Seychelles within the 2021 reporting period. Two cases were labor and sex trafficking respectively while one was an instance of both. Eleven suspected traffickers were arrested in the 2021 reporting period. Twelve prosecutions of human traffickers also remain ongoing.
The government maintained two hotlines with the police, immigration and social services respectively to report various crimes including trafficking. The employment department also established a hotline for concerns about forced labor.
Additionally, the government collaborated with the Transnational Organised Crime, Illicit Trafficking and Terrorism Program (UNODC) to aid in the fight against human trafficking. This workshop occurred on July 6, 2021, and aimed to improve upon efforts to investigate and prosecute human traffickers.
Johan Kruger, the head of UNODC was present at this workshop. While speaking of the scope of human trafficking concerns, Kruger stated that “the fight against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants requires a multi-jurisdictional and transnational approach.”
Protection for Victims and Witnesses
In recent years, the government has improved its protection efforts for victims of human trafficking. In the year 2021, there were 14 reported victims of human trafficking in Seychelles (both labor and sex trafficking). These victims were all foreigners from India, Nepal and Kenya. Seychelles also reported that up to 80 men and women were either trafficked sexually or sexually abused.
In 2017, the government and an unspecified international organization drafted new regulations for the 2014 anti-trafficking law. These regulations aimed to provide new protections for trafficking victims in Seychelles. At the end of the 2021 reporting period, this legislation has still not had an introduction to the National Assembly.
The Child Law Reform Committee also introduced legislation that reportedly increases protections for victims of sex trafficking and increases the responsibility of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute child sex crimes.
Additionally, in 2019, the government began drafting an immigration bill that would require work permit cards for all citizens and foreign workers. The intention is for these cards to include anti-trafficking information as well as contact information for assistance. This bill was awaiting approval from the National Assembly at the end of the 2021 reporting period.
Victim Assistance and Raising Awareness
There are several instances of victim assistance that are underway in Seychelles, in addition to efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking. These include:
- The National Coordinating Committee on Trafficking in Persons (NCCTIP) met six times during the 2021 reporting period. This committee emerged to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts across the government and influence national policy decisions. The Committee received $84,075 to aid with victim assistance and other prevention efforts.
- Nine victims of human trafficking in Seychelles received support for basic needs as well as shelter. The government also provided shelter to foreign nationals waiting to testify in a human trafficking trial.
- The 2014 anti-trafficking law provided victims the option to testify via closed-circuit television to alleviate safety concerns. The law also allows for courtroom accommodations for the mental comfort of human trafficking victims.
- The Ministry of Employment also inspected 573 work sites for possible indications of trafficking. However, it did not find labor victims or indications of trafficking at these sites.
- One limiting factor for the Ministry of Employment was its lack of jurisdiction within the Seychelles International Trade Zone (SITZ). This ultimately hurt its ability to protect migrants and report trafficking concerns.
- The government enhanced efforts to inform the public of the dangers of human trafficking in Seychelles. The government distributed about 1,500 pamphlets and leaflets on labor trafficking to airports, seaports, government agencies and employers of migrant workers. These pamphlets were available in both English and French to accommodate the varying demographics.
Overall and despite much room for improvement, Seychelles has made progress in terms of dealing with human trafficking concerns. This progress should continue in order to serve victims of human trafficking as well as punish those responsible for it.
– Max Cole