UN rights expert urges the Bahamas to adopt an effective national plan to fight trafficking in persons

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Joy Ngozi Ezeilo

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is being urged to develop and implement as soon as possible, a national action plan based on a human rights and victim-centered approach to effectively fight the growing problem of human trafficking.

The call comes from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo.

She said The Bahamas is a major transit country for migrants attempting to enter the US, and is a transit and destination place for trafficked persons from the Caribbean and Central and South America, noting that the scale of trafficking is difficult to quantify, given low identification and prosecution by authorities.

"The Government of the Bahamas has demonstrated willingness to combat trafficking in persons," Ms. Ezeilo stressed at the end of her first official visit to the country. She noted, among other things, the country's ratification of some key international conventions and the adoption of a comprehensive law on trafficking in persons in 2008, which prohibits trafficking in persons in all aspects, and is applicable to men, women and children.

"However," she said, "the country lacks a National Plan of action to effectively address trafficking in persons, setting out clear objectives and responsibilities to implement the existing legal framework while integrating a human rights and victim centered approach."

The expert highlighted the need for a broad assessment of the trends and scope of trafficking, and called for the creation of a national rapporteur or equivalent mechanism "to monitor the phenomenon at the national level, but also evaluate the implementation from a human rights perspective of existing policies and their impact on the issue of trafficking."

"Victims are hardly ever identified," the UN Special Rapporteur stressed, noting that she is "concerned of the possibility that trafficked persons may be arrested, detained and deported without the opportunity of being identified and provided necessary assistance." She recalled the growing influx of migrants arriving mainly by boats from Haiti and Cuba, and the government's rapid deportation programs.

The human rights expert noted that the country's immigration policy further deters potential victims of trafficking from reporting their situation for fear of being further penalized due to their immigration status.

Ms. Ezeilo's will present a comprehensive report with her final observations and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 2’12″

Filed under Caribbean News.
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