By DANA SMITH
THE alleged lack of “freedom of movement” for Chinese workers is an indication that human trafficking may be taking place at a large-scale construction site in the Bahamas, according to a new report from the US State Department.
This, among other factors – including the government failure to prosecute a single human trafficking case – has led the Bahamas to be classified as a “Tier 2 Watch List” on the State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report for the second year in a row.
“Media outlets have reported that Chinese workers in a large-scale Chinese construction project in The Bahamas do not have freedom of movement – a human trafficking indicator,” the report said.
It does not specify what “large-scale Chinese construction project” it is referring to, but the Thomas A Robinson national stadium, the Baha Mar resort, the Chinese Embassy, and various road projects in the family islands could all be described as large-scale construction projects with employed Chinese workers.
When reached for comment, Baha Mar senior vice president of administration and external affairs, Robert Sands firmly stated that the US could not be referring to their project.
“It doesn’t apply to us because our persons have freedom of movement,” Mr Sands said, before pointing out: “Baha Mar is not the only construction project going on in The Bahamas where Chinese workers are employed.”
Representatives for the Chinese Embassy, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment up to press time.
The State Department’s report continued to describe the Bahamas as “a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking”.
“Undocumented migrants, particularly the estimated 30,000 Haitians who largely arrive in The Bahamas voluntarily, are vulnerable to forced labour, especially in domestic servitude and in the agriculture sector,” it read. “Experts also have raised concerns that some workers from Jamaica could be vulnerable to involuntary servitude.”
Groups “especially vulnerable” to sex trafficking in the Bahamas include foreign citizens in prostitution and “local children engaging in sex with men” for basics such as food, transportation, or material goods, the State Department stated.
“The Government of The Bahamas does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report said. “Despite these efforts – most notably the establishment of a high-level interagency committee and continued statements of commitment to address human trafficking – the government has not identified or assisted any victims of trafficking or initiated any forced labour or sex trafficking prosecutions; therefore, The Bahamas is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year.”
However, the State Department did name a “positive development” as the government’s March announcement of the establishment of a “working level interagency task force” set to handle “specific allegations of human trafficking and a protocol to guide officials in handling trafficking cases.”
The State Department also praised the government for holding a trafficking awareness event in March.
The entire Trafficking in Persons Report can be read online at the State Department’s official website – www.state.gov.