Following a four-day visit last week to ascertain the prevalence of human trafficking and what is being done to remedy it, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, H.E. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, release preliminary findings that indicate that Belize has some important work to be done before it can rid itself of a problem that affects the world. Mrs. Ezeilo shared the heretofore unknown story of a young woman from El Salvador which is typical of the human trafficking experience.
“I met also a woman from El Salvador. She was promised domestic work, and upon her arrival, her passport was withheld on the promise of regularizing her situation, she said she was held hostage for two months and made to work in a small village while her trafficker exercise control over her by withholding her small child. She was able to escape after two months of exploitation with the help of villagers”.
According to Ambassador Ezeilo, much of the country’s plans and efforts to combat human trafficking are not translating on the ground, where corrupt police and immigration officers are taking advantage of the migrants’ precarious situation.
H.E. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo: “I met irregular migrants who even after salving out their variou attempts for illegally entering the country, are still kept in prison indefinitely. The practice of criminalization of irregular migrant is against human rights standards and practices, especially given the humane conditions and access of basic assistance for establishing contacts with their families, embassies and lawyers. It is also worrisome that persons from Central American sub region should be incarcerated for such immigration offenses, when they could easily be sent back to their respective countries without going through the trouble of criminalizing them. Of particular concern is that too persons of under 18 years of age are also punished for breach of immigration laws and are kept in prison, since there is no separate facility for detention for irregular migrants and for minors
Delegate Ezeilo made many recommendations for improving awareness, cooperation, capacity and development in the fight against human trafficking. She shares a few of them.
H.E. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo: “I recommend that Government ratify ILO Convention 189 for decent work for domestic workers. I also recommend that Government develops a National Referral Mechanism that will involve sooth sheet workers, NGOs and faith based organizations, including service providers and international organizations for migrants for migration in the screening and identification of potential victims of trafficking. The government should also improve partnership with civil society organizations, especially to create awareness as rugged communities about forms and manifestations of human trafficking. The government should scale-off training for law enforcement agents, Police, Immigration, Customs, Labour inspectors and ensure their retention, especially Police and Immigration officers to a reasonable number of days with appropriate career incentives to enhance needed capacity for continuity in their work of identification and investigation of cases of trafficking”.