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Screen_Shot_2014-02-06_at_8.29.39_PMBelize is classified as a source, destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. In both aspects Belizeans and foreign women and girls, primarily from Central America, are obliged to work in bars, nightclubs and brothels throughout the country.


And while the Government of Belize does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; it is making significant efforts to do so by enacting an anti-trafficking law for the protection of potential victims. And it is no secret that human trafficking of persons remains a societal ill here in our country and on a local scale there is a no tolerance policy program under the auspices of the Orange Walk Police Department. Reporter Maria Novelo sat down with Second in Command, Inspector Julius Cantun to see what steps are being taken to ensure the effective prohibition of the commercial sexual exploitation among girls and women. Here is that report!

Maria Novelo – Reporting

In February 2013, government enacted the trafficking in person (prohibition) act which prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of one to eight years imprisonment if convicted. Despite a large number of people who have become victims of trafficking enterprises and the growing impact of trafficking on Belize, the public is largely unaware of the problem. And since his tenure at the Orange Walk Police Station, Inspector Julius Cantun says the trend has been evolving and they are making strides in minimizing the trafficking of persons.

Inspector Julius Cantun– Second in Command, OW police

“What I have noted for the years that I have worked in the northern part of the country is that it is prevalent, the first thing that would come to mind would be waitresses that are working on the hotels, night clubs and the bars, nevertheless those are the covert forms of trafficking in person we can out rightly see, however there also exist the covert an aspect of it for example, we note that because of families of less resources they would offer probably their daughter underage daughter to men of high resources in exchange for monies for whatever reason probable to upgrade their standard of living, probably to get the everyday means or probably to send their children to school or whatever the purpose the cover of trafficking in persons that we see.”

Cantun says victims of human trafficking are recruited under false pretenses to work under deplorable conditions throughout the country.

Inspector Julius Cantun– Second in Command, OW police

“For some reason they do not want to go back from where they came from and they agree to live in this condition and the other issue is that most of them are transit, they are just passing through Belize and there they their aim is the dream land the United States of America and ruing ther journey that is what they do.  Belize is one of the transit point for trafficking of persons and he victims are not only females from other countries but they also include Belizeans who are being recruited especially in the tourism industry, sometimes we notice certain advertisements in the newspapers funny advertisements, we look into there is not particular address just send the resume and a phone call after this, those are red flags that we look at when it comes to trafficking of person and those are the areas we as law enforcement we tend to follow but yes the victims mostly are of less privilege people of other Central American countries and we have Belize girls are victims also.”

Despite the many challenges the department faces, operations are launched in an effort to enforce the prohibition act.

Inspector Julius Cantun– Second in Command, OW police

“At the local level in terms of the municipality we have that as a priority and we engage in operations as it arises and when we get information about the public or get information from any source then we look into it, we act into it and get enough evidence then we charge the person for offences of trafficking.”

While for the victims, there are several misconceptions that they would assume; Cantun says that any victim of human trafficking should not be worried about their illegal status and should come forward to seek assistance from them.

Inspector Julius Cantun– Second in Command, OW police

“The mere fact that you as an allege employer hold a person’s passport there is one of the offences already committed, you have no authority to hold anyone’s passport especially against that person’s will so that is one aspect of the trafficking in person already so no if the victim comes forth and say I have been a victim of sexual exploitation and I need help, that is why I had mention I had a task force in place and that is when we call in the human development office and we call other entities, even the immigration department, they hold a legal status whilst that case is before the court, the immigration will provide with some legal status because they are victim of trafficking in person and that is the next misconception that we need to clarify and hence the reason why when we conduct operations we have all members of the task force our representatives on standby so when we bring somebody we put them aside and we interview then we tell them we are here to help you maybe you are not comfortable our concern is your safety and your wellbeing.”

In 2012, the government reported it assisted seven trafficking victims, compared to 12 the previous year. 

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