Barbados is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Authorities and NGOs report foreign women have been forced into prostitution in Barbados. Foreigners have been subjected to forced labor in Barbados, most notably in domestic service, agriculture, and construction. Legal and illegal immigrants from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Guyana are especially vulnerable to trafficking. The prostitution of children occurs in Barbados. UNICEF has documented children engaging in transactional sex with older men for material goods throughout the Eastern Caribbean; this is a high risk group for human trafficking.
The Government of Barbados does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government identified and assisted an increased number of trafficking victims during the reporting period compared with 2012. It established formal, victim-centered guidelines to guide officials in the identification and protection of trafficking victims and the prosecution of trafficking offenders. No traffickers have been convicted of human trafficking offenses; however, the government arrested suspected trafficking offenders during the reporting period, including a government official for alleged complicity in trafficking. It also pledged to improve its anti-trafficking legal framework.
Recommendations for Barbados:
Amend the 2011 legislation to prohibit all forms of human trafficking and prescribe penalties that are sufficiently stringent (without an alternative of a fine) and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape; convict trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in human trafficking, and provide appropriate sentences for their crimes; train and encourage government officials to implement recently formalized procedures to proactively identify labor and sex trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as Barbadians and foreigners in prostitution and migrant workers; provide adequate funding to organizations that assist trafficking victims; continue to enhance partnership with Barbados’ skilled and dedicated NGO community to combat human trafficking; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government made some efforts to prosecute trafficking offenders, including government officials complicit in human trafficking, and committed to improving its anti-trafficking legal framework. Barbadian law does not prohibit all forms of human trafficking and does not prescribe penalties for prohibited forms of trafficking that are sufficiently stringent or commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 8 of the Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) Act of 2011 and Articles 18, 20, 33, and 34 of the Offenses against the Person Act all address trafficking in persons. Compelling prostitution under Article 20 of the Offenses against the Person Act is punishable by five years’ imprisonment, while the trafficking of an adult under the TOC Act is punishable by a potential fine with no jail time, both of which are far less stringent punishments than Barbados’ prescribed penalty for rape, which is life imprisonment. In early 2014, the government expressed its intention to amend Barbados’ legal framework to conform to international standards to combat human trafficking. In the interim, the government issued guidance to its officials highlighting the 2000 UN TIP Protocol definition of human trafficking and encouraging innovation within the current legal framework to address human trafficking offenses.
Authorities investigated three suspected trafficking cases during the reporting period and conducted no prosecutions against alleged traffickers, compared with two investigations and no prosecutions the previous year. In April 2013, police arrested the owner, an employee, and another person connected with a brothel and charged them with 30 counts of human trafficking using the TOC Act for exploiting foreigners in sex trafficking, and subsequently arrested an immigration official for alleged complicity on charges of misconduct in public office. One suspect remains in pre-trial detention, and authorities released the others on bail. Under the Barbadian criminal justice system, the case is still considered to be in the investigative stage. The two investigations reported in the previous year did not lead to any prosecutions. There were no convictions of trafficking offenders during the reporting period.
The government increased victim protection efforts during the reporting period. In February 2014, authorities formalized procedures to guide officials across the government in proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking and forced labor and referring them to available services. Officials identified one child and four foreign adult sex trafficking victims, an improvement from identifying only two victims during the previous reporting period.
Officials and NGOs reported strong partnerships during the reporting period to provide trafficking victims assistance. The government had an agreement with an NGO to provide shelter for male victims of human trafficking, though this NGO did not assist any male trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government provided some funding to an NGO crisis center that provided shelter and psychological, medical, and occupational services to female human trafficking victims, but this funding was inadequate to cover costs. This organization and the government’s gender affairs bureau cooperated with other NGOs to offer additional services. For example, one NGO provided pro bono legal assistance to trafficking victims during the reporting period. In coordination with NGOs, officials from the police, immigration department, and child care board assisted other potential victims, but after further investigation, did not classify them as trafficking victims.
In early 2014, the government formalized policies to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. As part of its operations guidelines, the government established a policy allowing the immigration department to provide foreign trafficking victims with temporary legal alternatives, such as temporary residence in Barbados, to their removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. The government worked with IOM to provide safe and voluntary repatriation to some of the foreign victims identified during the year and allowed those who wanted to stay to remain in Barbados in NGO care. The government formalized guidelines directing authorities not to penalize trafficking victims for unlawful offenses committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Complaints of potential victims being summarily deported decreased substantially compared with previous year.
The government made progress in efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. Marking a positive shift from their previous position, government officials acknowledged the presence of human trafficking in Barbados. The Bureau of Gender Affairs conducted an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign entitled “NOT AGAIN, Trafficking in Persons—Modern Day Slavery,” which included townhall and panel discussions on the issue. The government produced brochures and pamphlets on human trafficking, and developed a “before and after” questionnaire to facilitate the panel discussions’ effectiveness. The government funded the operation of a hotline staffed by professionals trained to identify human trafficking. The Attorney General led the government’s anti-trafficking taskforce, which met at least twice during the reporting period and included permanent secretaries from several ministries and NGOs. The government provided in-kind assistance to IOM-led anti-trafficking training for officials from various ministries. The government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor over the year. Barbados is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.