Human Trafficking Committee Refutes US State Department Report
The Seychelles Committee on Trafficking in Persons have today issued a statement in response to the US State Department’s 2013 Report on Trafficking in Persons in which Seychelles is featured and which was rejected by the Government last week, as being poor in its analysis and based on anecdotal evidence.
The Committee, which consisted of representatives from Social Development, Employment, Immigration, Police, Office of the Attorney General, Seychelles Civil Aviation – as well as NGO’s, such as WASO and the NCC and other relevant sectors, described the report as a distortion of the reality on the ground:
“The Committee on Trafficking in Persons (TIP Committee) denounces the narrative of Seychelles in the 2013 report and refers to it as a distortion of the actual situation and reality in the country. A plethora of inaccuracies and misrepresentations have been identified throughout the narrative, which have belittled the efforts being made on the ground to address the problems of trafficking in its local context.”
In their statement, the Committee urged the US State Department to review and address the shortcomings in their reports that would provide for a more accurate account and better help the fight against human trafficking across the globe.
“Whilst aware that the US State Department’s report is aimed at increasing the global efforts to combat trafficking in persons, we do not believe that reporting on uncorroborated and unsubstantiated claims is an appropriate avenue by which this can be achieved. We question the methodology and veracity of the report, and are concerned about the logic and transparency behind the rating system…. We strongly recommend that the US State Department seeks to improve its methodology and develop greater consistency and accuracy in the information reported in order to produce reports that can be used as a basis to assess progress. “
The Committee has said that they have been working with partners to enact their plans, which includes their work with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on drafting new legislation on human trafficking and developing a National Action Plan on trafficking.
It may be recalled that the Seychelles Government also denounced the 2012 report as being grossly distorted. In an attempt to address issues on the ground and concerns with the US State Department reporting style, the newly convened Committee met with Mr David Campbell, the Political Officer from the US Embassy in Port Louis, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2012. The discussions centred on addressing these concerns and discussing the Action Plans intended to address local issues relating to human trafficking.
Committee on Trafficking in Persons
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Statement regarding the US State Department’s 2013 report on Trafficking in Persons
For the past two consecutive years, Seychelles has been placed on ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Person’s Annual Report. The Committee on Trafficking in Persons (TIP Committee) denounces the narrative of Seychelles in the 2013 report and refers to it as a distortion of the actual situation and reality in the country. A plethora of inaccuracies and misrepresentations have been identified throughout the narrative, which have belittled the efforts being made on the ground to address the problems of trafficking in its local context. The TIP Committee is therefore duty-bound to address and refute the unsubstantiated generalizations throughout the narrative.
The report states that child prostitution is commonplace in Seychelles. This is an uncorroborated claim based on anecdotal evidence, which is startling to the Seychellois people given the extensive framework in place for the protection and safeguarding of the rights of children and its level of enforcement. In the period covered by the narrative, there have been no reported cases of child prostitution by victims, concerned citizens or related agencies in Seychelles. Nonetheless, the Social Affairs Department has taken a proactive approach and has been working closely with its partners on issues that have involved minors in sexual activities.
Another perturbing allegation made by the narrative refers to the status of prostitution in Seychelles. The government has acknowledged the occurrence of prostitution, and there have been numerous initiatives both by governmental departments and civil society organisations to provide social support to the vulnerable individuals, and to sensitize the greater public on the dangers that the activity poses. It has been recognised that drugs have played a corollary role on the rise of such activities in the country, and the agencies concerned have taken concrete steps to provide necessary services to drug addicts to protect them from potential sexual exploitation.
Also, featured in the narrative is the case of five Ukrainian women who were allegedly victims of trafficking in Seychelles. Despite full cooperation of the concerned Seychellois agencies to the Ukrainian authorities, and the willingness of the Government to investigate the claim, the lack of official information on the identity of the concerned individuals has resulted in the local investigation being halted.
Furthermore, the TIP Committee is disappointed to note that whilst the narrative discusses the sporadic cases where migrant workers have faced difficult conditions, it ignores the substantial efforts made by the stakeholders in the past year to address such cases when reported and to prevent future occurrences of the same. This includes the reinforcement of the Compliance Division of the Labour Department, which conducts inspections and monitors working conditions of migrant workers. More scrutiny has also been applied in the recruitment process of migrant workers (i.e. issuance of Gainful Occupation Permits and attestation of contracts). The Labour Department has also been empowered to fast track claims related to exploitation of migrant workers and this has reduced the necessity of higher court involvement through active mediation. It is also worth noting that the necessary legal actions were taken against the companies who were involved in the exploitation migrant workers.
Whilst aware that the US State Department’s report is aimed at increasing the global efforts to combat trafficking in persons, we do not believe that reporting on uncorroborated, unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims is an appropriate avenue by which this can be achieved. We question the methodology and veracity of the report, and are concerned about the logic and transparency behind the rating system. Despite the efforts being made by the authorities to provide all requested factual information to render the report accurate and reflective of the reality of our islands, the TIP Committee questions the motives behind the selection of information featured in the report. We strongly recommend that the US State Department seeks to improve its methodology and develop greater consistency and accuracy in the information reported in order to produce reports that can be used as a basis to assess progress.
In recognition of the shortcomings that must be urgently addressed to improve the gaps in counter measures related to human trafficking, we have embarked on a series of activities and programmes nationally. The TIP Committee, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is drafting legislation on human trafficking, as well as developing a National Action Plan to coordinate local efforts. Through a project under the International Organisation of Migration, workshops for capacity building and awareness raising activities are also being planned for the second half of 2013.
The TIP Committee would like to thank you for taking the time to convey our views on this matter to the relevant authority. We remain committed to the fight against trafficking in persons, and protecting the vulnerable victims of this heinous crime. We reiterate that as long as the discussion on eradicating human trafficking is based on random anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims, the efforts and progress made on this issue will remain meaningless.
Mr Joseph Francois Mrs Linda William-Melanie
Director General for Protocol, Principal Secretary
Treaties and Consular Affairs Department of Social Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Social Affairs, Community
of the Republic of Seychelles Development and Sports
Co-Chairs of the Committee on Trafficking in Persons