Thursday 20th June, 2019-The US State Department says while Antigua and Barbuda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking of persons, it is making significant efforts to get there.
In its Trafficking in Persons Report dated June, 2019, the US authorities found “The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Antigua and Barbuda remained on Tier 2. The efforts included amending the trafficking law so that penalties are commensurate with penalties of other serious crimes, passing a national action plan for 2019 to 2021, drafting formal standard operating procedures on victim referral specific to each agency, increasing training on indicators of trafficking, and liaising with another government on trafficking investigations.”
The report highlights Antigua and Barbuda did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not initiate any prosecutions and identified fewer victims. To date, the government has failed to convict a trafficker, and did not report the decision on penalties for complicit police officers in a 2015 case.
On protection, it is noted government increased protection efforts with formal written procedures to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services officials in screening and identification of potential victims.
Where prosecution is concerned, the US State Department found “The government maintained prosecution efforts. The 2010 Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 400,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($148,150) for offenses involving an adult victim, and up to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 600,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($222,220) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.”
On prevention, the government was found to have maintained prevention efforts. The government approved the new 2019 to 2021 national action plan; however, it decreased the budget for anti-trafficking efforts to 53,242 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($19,720), compared to 330,430 in 2017 and 109,410 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($40,520) in 2016.
Human traffickers the report outlined exploit domestic and foreign victims in Antigua and Barbuda, and traffickers exploit victims from Antigua and Barbuda abroad. Documented and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean region, notably Jamaica, Guyana, and the Dominican Republic, are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. Authorities reported an increased number of trafficking victims in multiple-destination trafficking, arriving in Antigua and Barbuda for a few months before their traffickers exploited them in other Caribbean countries such as St. Kitts and Nevis and Barbados. Sex trafficking occurs in bars, taverns, and brothels, including with minor girls.
Listed as prioritized recommendations are the strengthening of efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish officials complicit in trafficking crimes, provide adequate funding to fully implement the national action plan, Improve victim assistance to include more specialized shelters, including dedicated shelters for male victims and increase availability of mid- to long-term assistance for victims among others.