ARUBA: Tier 2 Watch List
The Government of Aruba does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included identifying more victims, investigating more trafficking cases, and providing anti-trafficking training for officials. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers for the second consecutive year and officials relied on victims to report their exploitation, rather than proactively screening vulnerable populations. Anti-trafficking efforts lacked a dedicated budget and were largely dependent on ad hoc funding allotments. In addition, officials conflated trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, hindering the effectiveness of prosecution, prevention, and protection efforts. Therefore Aruba remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers. • Proactively identify victims among all vulnerable groups, including women in commercial sex, detained migrants, domestic workers, and migrants working in construction, supermarkets, and retail. • Train law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, coast guard officers, and labor inspectors on victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches to trafficking cases. • Establish dedicated funding for anti-trafficking efforts, including for full-time staff members. • Sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms. • Complete the construction of the multipurpose shelter for victims of crimes, including human trafficking. • Improve coordination and information-sharing with anti-trafficking counterparts across the Kingdom of the Netherlands. • Implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and increase referral of possible trafficking victims among Venezuelan migrants and refugees. • Formalize agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims. • Promote awareness of trafficking in persons, separately from migrant smuggling, through trafficking-specific materials and campaigns.
The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 2:239 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to eight years’ imprisonment or a fine for offenses involving a victim 16 years of age or older and up to 12 years’ imprisonment or a fine for those involving a victim under the age of 16. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The government drafted an amendment to the anti trafficking law to increase penalties for trafficking offenses, which remained under review with the advisory council, a final stage before submission to parliament, at the end of the reporting period.
Due to pandemic-related movement restrictions, officials reported a significant reduction in migrant smuggling cases involving Venezuelans in 2020; similar cases required significant investigative resources and overwhelmed the government’s ability to investigate possible human trafficking crimes in the previous reporting period. Authorities reported conducting 13 preliminary investigations, resulting in two full trafficking investigations in 2020, compared with one investigation in 2019 and three in 2018. Officials did not report prosecuting or convicting any traffickers in 2020, compared with zero prosecutions or convictions in 2019 and one prosecution and one conviction under smuggling charges in 2018. In 2020, authorities continued to prosecute one case of labor trafficking involving two suspects, initiated in 2018. Authorities halted or investigated under related criminal statutes nine additional potential trafficking crimes where victims did not self-identify as such and declined to participate. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
The joint Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit (UMM), comprised of law enforcement officials from the Aruban Police Force and the Royal Dutch Military Police, led trafficking investigations. During the reporting period, authorities provided anti-trafficking training to 38 new and veteran law enforcement officials through the Academy for Justice and Security. While senior government officials distinguished between trafficking and human smuggling, non-specialized law enforcement officials did not demonstrate an understanding of trafficking; across the government, Aruba addressed trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling via the same institutions. Officials issued training participants “Quick Reference Cards” (QRCs), funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, that included relevant criminal articles; a list of trafficking indicators; standard operating procedures to use following identification of a potential trafficking case; and contact information to use when referring victims. Aruban authorities cooperated in two investigations coordinated by international law enforcement agencies and continued to collaborate with the Indian government in an ongoing prosecution.
The government slightly increased protection efforts. Multidisciplinary teams consisting of police, labor, and immigration officials continued to operate. The government reported identifying four trafficking victims in 2020, compared with zero in 2019, two in 2018, and 71 in 2017. Of the four victims identified, all were adults exploited in labor trafficking; one was male, one female, and two were anonymous reports made without specifying gender. Authorities screened ten additional individuals as possible trafficking victims but determined them to be victims of other crimes. The government established a new protocol to encourage identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable migrant groups by allowing potential victims to remain anonymous and receive services from civil society organizations during the initial investigation. In 2020, the government implemented the new protocol in one case, allowing two victims without legal residency status to report their exploitation and receive services anonymously; an international organization provided shelter and other services to these two victims. The anti trafficking task force continued to provide law enforcement and social services officials with a checklist of the most common signs of trafficking, which was used in concert with the government’s QRCs. Although authorities reportedly screened detained migrants for trafficking indicators ahead of deportation, observers expressed concern detention center officials were not equipped to identify trafficking. The Coordination Center on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling (CMMA) developed a set of questions to guide officials screening detained migrants but did not report training officials on the new materials. The government had a basic victim referral mechanism to guide officials; however, the government did not report referring victims to services in 2020.
The government maintained informal verbal agreements with local NGOs and private sector accommodations to shelter adult and child victims of trafficking. Through these arrangements, the government could secure emergency short-term shelter for victims and longer-term shelter for adult female victims, despite a lack of trafficking-specific shelters. Authorities could place unaccompanied child victims in foster care centers or foster homes and adult male victims could be accommodated by civil society organizations or local churches. Officials conducted risk assessments before deciding whether victims could leave shelters unchaperoned; authorities restricted victims’ movement if their lives were threatened. The government reported a longstanding plan to expand shelter capacity for male victims and families via new facilities was fully funded through a Kingdom of the Netherlands grant but stalled due to complications related to the pandemic; officials stated the government would begin construction in 2021. Authorities did not report any victims assisting the government in the prosecution of their traffickers during the reporting period.
Although foreign victims were entitled to the same rights and protection as Arubans, the government did not report how many received benefits in 2020. The law authorized the extension of temporary immigration relief for foreign victims for three to six months on a case by-case basis and allowed foreign victims to change employers if they were suspected of exploiting workers. Authorities did not report any victims received these benefits but confirmed trafficking victims were not at risk of deportation during the reporting period as a result of a government-wide halt on removal proceedings during the pandemic. The criminal code enabled victims to file civil suits against traffickers, and, if the trial resulted from a criminal investigation, the victim could seek compensation not to exceed 50,000 florin ($27,800) for financial and emotional damages, although none did so in 2020. The Bureau of Victim Assistance operated a hotline for potential victims of all crimes, including trafficking; the government reported eight trafficking-related calls to the hotline, leading to the identification of two trafficking victims, compared with zero victims identified via the hotline in 2019 and 2018.
The government maintained minimal prevention efforts. The National Coordinator on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling continued to lead the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, with support from a national task force and the CMMA. All three entities had dual responsibility for both anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling efforts. Authorities continued to implement the 2018-2022 national action plan, which continued to lack dedicated resources for its implementation. Instead, anti-trafficking activities were financed via ad hoc allotments, including periodic infusions from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which limited the capacity and stability of these efforts across prosecution, protection, and prevention. In 2020, the government hired a project manager for the CMMA, the four-year-old institution’s first dedicated staff member, with funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, the Aruban government had not approved dedicated funding for the project manager role in the national budget, leaving the future of the position uncertain.
Officials raised awareness of human trafficking and the hotline in multiple languages via social media, posters, and flyers, as well as a new airport-based campaign supported by an international organization. Authorities continued to utilize awareness materials produced in a 2011 campaign aimed to inform migrants of general risks, including trafficking. The government provided trafficking-awareness training to 120 government officials and civil society stakeholders. In 2020, the government converted many events to virtual delivery, including an annual anti trafficking awareness conference funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which the CMMA reformatted as a week-long webinar series that reached more than 300 participants.
Officials had procedures to screen adult entertainers, primarily from Colombia; but, the government closed adult entertainment venues during the pandemic, and all adult entertainment visa holders returned to their countries of origin. Thus, few inspections were performed. Normally, individuals on adult entertainment visas were required to meet with consular officers to ensure the applicants knew their rights and had a copy of their work agreement before picking up their in-flight letter at the Kingdom of the Netherlands embassy in Colombia. Upon arrival, such visa recipients normally received information about their rights, risks, and resources. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Aruba. Traffickers exploit Venezuelan women in sex trafficking and foreign men and women in forced labor in Aruba’s service and construction industries. Arriving Venezuelans commonly overstay their visas, leaving many with expired documentation and a corresponding increased risk for trafficking. Families, business owners, and criminals exploit some of these Venezuelans in forced labor in domestic service, construction, and commercial sex, respectively. Supermarket managers subject Chinese men and women to forced labor in grocery stores; business owners and families subject Indian men to forced labor in the retail sector and domestic service, respectively; and Arubans force Caribbean and South American women into domestic servitude. Women in regulated and unregulated commercial sex, domestic workers, and employees of small retail shops are most at risk of trafficking. Managers of Chinese-owned supermarkets and restaurants may subject children to sex trafficking and forced labor. There were reports foreigners visited Aruba to exploit children in sex tourism.