Antigua and Barbuda is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Legal and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean region, notably from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, as well as from southeast Asia, reportedly comprise the population most vulnerable to trafficking. According to several sources, forced prostitution occurs in bars, taverns, and brothels. Incidences of forced labor have occurred in domestic service and in the retail sector.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite severe budget limitations, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda demonstrated a proactive approach to identifying trafficking victims and providing them with quality services. Both the minister of national security and the director of gender affairs continued to be leaders in the prevention of human trafficking. For another year, the government did not report any convictions or punishments of trafficking offenders.
Recommendations for Antigua and Barbuda: Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in human trafficking; consider ways to ensure human trafficking cases are handled in the high court and treated as a serious crime; continue identifying and protecting trafficking victims by formalizing procedures to guide law enforcement, child welfare officials, and other front-line responders in identifying victims and referring them to available services; and continue efforts to raise awareness among child protection specialists about child sex trafficking, underscoring that all prostituted children—regardless of movement—are considered trafficking victims by UN definitions.
The government made little discernible progress in the prosecution of trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Antigua and Barbuda’s Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act 2010 prohibits forced prostitution and forced labor, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment with fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law is comprehensive, and includes extensive victim protection measures, though several officials have expressed concern that the law requires trafficking crimes be heard in lower court, which appears to treat trafficking as a less serious crime. The government initiated one new sex trafficking investigation during the reporting period. A sex trafficking prosecution from the previous year remained pending, and authorities dismissed a labor trafficking prosecution from the previous year. The government did not report any new prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Some sources raised concerns of possible trafficking-related complicity within the immigration department and also about an apparent conflict of interest in the practice of off-duty police officers sometimes providing security for sex trade establishments, an arrangement that could inhibit law enforcement’s willingness to investigate allegations of human trafficking in the sex trade. Nevertheless, the government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of such government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses. The government provided in-kind support to IOM-led capacity building and technical skills training workshops for government officials.
The government made some progress in the protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period. The Gender Affairs Department continued to take a proactive approach to identifying new victims and following through with high quality, long-term assistance. The Gender Affairs Department forged relationships with NGOs to raise awareness about human trafficking indicators and available government services. Government victim protection specialists identified proactively two potential sex trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government provided start-up funds in 2012 for the establishment of a shelter that will offer mental health and other care for crime victims, including specialized services for trafficking victims. With assistance from IOM and using creative private-public partnerships, such as an emergency safe haven network, the government referred trafficking victims to care providers after conducting needs assessments. The Gender Affairs Department went beyond basic service provision for trafficking victims and offered job placement and other ongoing support for victims identified in previous reporting periods. Child protection officials did not report having a specialized protocol to identify and refer local and foreign children in prostitution for assistance. The government encouraged trafficking victims to assist in the prosecution of trafficking offenders. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act 2010 protects identified victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their having been trafficked, and authorities collaborated with IOM to repatriate foreign victims safely and voluntarily. However, there was one report that authorities deported a suspected trafficking victim during the reporting period. The government offered the one identified foreign victim long-term residency as a legal alternative to removal to a country where he or she might have faced retribution or hardship.
The government demonstrated significant trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. Senior officials, such as the minister of national security, spoke publicly about the importance of a victim-centered approach to addressing human trafficking, and chaired a committee to address trafficking prevention. The gender affairs department led a national anti-trafficking coalition which met regularly and was comprised of representatives from the ministries of social welfare, social transformation, health, labor, immigration and customs, and foreign affairs, as well as officials from the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, members of various civil society groups, and community activists. The coalition completed a national action plan to address human trafficking that includes establishment of a centralized system for data collection and a review of legal tools to combat human trafficking. Authorities continued to distribute and share with other officials in the Caribbean region human trafficking public awareness materials; they also aired radio spots in English and Spanish that targeted victims as well as the general public. The Gender Affairs Department hosted community talks and distributed posters throughout Antigua and Barbuda to raise anti-trafficking awareness. The government continued to operate a hotline with operators trained to identify and assist human trafficking victims. The government did not report any initiatives aimed at reducing the demand for forced labor or commercial sex. The government and local NGOs reported no evidence that child sex tourism occurs in Antigua and Barbuda and reported no child sex tourism investigations.