Sunday, April 14, 2024

Anti-human trafficking program launched in Belize

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On Wednesday, January 11th, an anti-human trafficking program was launched in Belize. The general public and private sector stakeholders convened at a venue in Belize City to witness the launch of the Transportation Leaders Empowered through Education, Awareness, and Effective Policy Change on Human Trafficking program in Belize. The program, called TLEAP Belize in its short version, intends to tackle the trafficking of persons in the country and is being implemented by RET International funding from the Central American Region Security Initiative of the United States government.
Human trafficking is a painful issue that the Government of Belize has been trying to address over the years. The crime, which refers to the exploitation, recruitment, transportation, and harboring of people through force, fraud, or deception, has plagued Belizean communities.
At the event on Wednesday, one of the organizers, Jaunna Murrillo, stated that human smuggling is a violation against the country because they illegally gain entry. “Those migrants that do get smuggled into a country are at risk, and we consider that it can lead to human trafficking despite the nature of smuggling,” said Murrillo.
While the government is trying to address the issue, Murrillo noted that communities could do their part to combat these illegal activities. “Police can’t be everywhere, immigration can’t be everywhere, social works can’t be everywhere, so we want to equip even the public and the persons providing services with the knowledge and inform the police,” she said.
RET International has been in Belize since 2015 and will aim to engage with over 500 stakeholders in the transportation sector, providing training for them to identify signs of human trafficking. According to RET’s Cherese Ferguson, this includes representatives from bus companies, taxi drivers, taxi associations, water taxis, and local airlines as well. “We endeavor to inform persons within the industry so that they can be eyes and ears for the government and the country as a whole to help in identifying suspected victims of trafficking. We also want people to know how to make such reports,” said Ferguson. The minister in charge of transport, the Honourable Rodwell Ferguson, fully supports the project.
On July 19, 2022, the United States Secretary of State released the 22nd Annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) and upgraded Belize’s status to Tier 2. The 2022 TIP Report assesses the anti-trafficking efforts of 188 governments. Countries assessed as fully meeting the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking are placed on Tier 1. Countries assessed as not fully meeting the minimum standards, but making significant efforts to meet them, are placed on Tier 2 or Tier 2 Watch List. Countries assessed as not fully meeting the minimum standards and not making significant efforts to do so are ranked Tier 3.
The problem expands around the region and continues to happen as we speak. In most cases, it occurs in private homes, making it difficult for authorities to crack down on these inhumane operations. As such, anyone believing they have identified someone in the trafficking situation is asked to contact the authorities immediately at the different contact information below:
Emergency call 911, Crime Stoppers 922 or 0-800-922-TIPS (8477), or email [email protected].

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