WE have seen the Guyana country narrative report in the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, which places Guyana yet again on the Tier 2 Watch List, and which has as one of the Recommendations to Guyana: “ensure trafficking-specific shelter and care is offered to identified victims of trafficking”. The Minister of Human Services & Social Security, Ms. Priya Manickchand, has also drawn to our attention the following statements in the ‘Tier 2 Watch List Action Guide for Guyana’ in the TIP Report Assessment provided to the government consequent upon the issue of the above mentioned report: “The main shelter in [incorrect location] focuses on domestic violence and reported it did not assist any trafficking victims; it is unclear whether this is an appropriate service provider for trafficking victims.”
These statements apparently form the basis of the report’s finding that Guyana has failed to ensure that trafficking-specific shelter and care is offered to victims of trafficking, yet the first leaves room for misconception and the second is simply an unverified expression of doubt.
We therefore wish to make the following clarifications:
1. In March 2006, our shelter, which was originally for female victims of domestic violence and their children, but which had been closed since February 2004 due to lack of funds, was reopened under an arrangement with the government whereby it would henceforth be a shelter for both victims of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking.
2. The shelter provides victims of trafficking with a place of safety, food and clothing, health care and professional counselling.
3. When contacted by the US Embassy, presumably for the purpose of the 2010 TIP report, what we reported was that no victims of trafficking had been referred to our shelter during the period under review, namely 2009, and not that we do not assist and have not assisted trafficking victims, period.
4. While the number of victims of trafficking whom we have assisted is small compared with the number of domestic violence victims, this in no way diminishes our capacity to provide trafficking-specific shelter and care to victims of trafficking as and when the need arises.
We are concerned not only that the impression may have been created that we do not provide assistance to trafficking victims but also that our appropriateness as a provider of services for trafficking victims has been called into question simply - it would appear – due to lack of requirement for them.
Our provision of shelter services to victims of domestic violence, while standing ready to assist victims of trafficking, prevents a waste of material and human resources in a country that cannot afford either.
We invite representatives of the US Embassy to visit our shelter to see for themselves that – to quote from the Action Guide – “potential victims are [sic] provided [with] appropriate shelter and care…”