The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report commends Belize for its increased actions against human trafficking but notes that there is still much more that can be done, including addressing “official complicity” in human trafficking.
by Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 20, 2022
The United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and the US State Department have released the 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which indicates that the status of Belize, which had previously been on the Tier 2 Watch List, has been upgraded to Tier 2. The annual report assesses the efforts of 188 governments (including the United States) to prevent and combat human trafficking.
Those countries that successfully and fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking set out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 are ranked Tier 1 and those who are making significant efforts to meet them fully are classified as Tier 2. Those that are not fully meeting the minimum standards and are making no significant efforts to do so are classified as Tier 3.
After the release of the report on Tuesday, the US Embassy commended the Government of Belize for “taking decisive action” against human trafficking.
According to the US State Department, the Government has made several achievements as a result of its efforts, including arresting two traffickers and applying adequate sentences; expanding the size of its Anti-Trafficking (A-TIP) police unit, and opening a shelter for unaccompanied children who are at risk of being trafficked. The report also points out some of the Government’s shortcomings in its anti-trafficking efforts:
“The government did not adequately address official complicity in trafficking crimes, reports of which remained common; did not adequately oversee labor recruitment or investigate allegations of trafficking; and did not take measures to reduce demand for commercial sex,” it states.
The report also explains that authorities reportedly did not consistently screen migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers to ensure none of them were being trafficked and may have deported or arrested unidentified trafficking victims.
In addition to raising the country’s ranking, the US Secretary of State and State Department also provided recommendations on additional work that needs to be done by the Government. Those recommendations include implementing the anti-trafficking law by vigorously investigating, prosecuting, and adequately convicting traffickers—including child sex tourists and officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes—and carrying out consistent formal procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable groups, including migrants and refugees.
The upgrading of Belize’s status to Tier 2 comes after the country has been on the Tier 2 Watchlist for three consecutive years. Last year, the country was commended by the US Secretary of State for designating judges to preside over trafficking trials, providing shelter for male victims for the first time, and launching an investigation against a police officer accused of complicity in a trafficking case.
In a press release sent out on Tuesday, the Government of Belize said that it is “pleased with the upgrade from Tier 2 Watchlist to Tier 2 and recognizes that there is more to be done to combat Human Trafficking in Belize.”