Antigua and Barbuda
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: Tier 2 Watch List
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, Guyana, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, as well as from Southeast Asia, are most vulnerable to trafficking. The trafficking in persons committee reported sex trafficking in bars, taverns, and brothels. There are anecdotal reports that children are subjected to sex trafficking, including by parents and caregivers. Forced labor occurs in domestic service and the retail sector. Credible sources reiterated concerns of possible trafficking-related complicity by police officers, such as officials facilitating movement of a trafficking victim by receiving them at the airport, collaborating with the trafficker in the movement of a victim, and providing security for an establishment involved in trafficking. The police reported that traffickers changed tactics, remitting a greater portion of the proceeds to victims and allowing victims to keep their passports, making it difficult to investigate cases.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Antigua and Barbuda is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. Per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Antigua and Barbuda was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards. The government amended the 2010 trafficking in persons act to remove legal obstacles to successful prosecutions, in particular by giving the high court authority for trafficking cases. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of traffickers, though it increased the number of investigations of suspected cases of trafficking from two to 10. Authorities identified and offered services to those who wished to stay in the country and facilitated the repatriation of those who wished to return home.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA:
Vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials; formalize procedures for law enforcement, child welfare officials, and other front-line responders to identify victims, including children subjected to trafficking for sexual exploitation, and refer them to appropriate services; train law enforcement and prosecutors in proactively identifying, obtaining, preserving, and corroborating evidence to reduce dependence on victim testimony; implement the national action plan to guide government efforts in combating trafficking; and improve data collection on prosecutions, convictions, and victim identification and care.
The government maintained minimal prosecution efforts. In 2015, the government amended the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act of 2010, vesting jurisdiction for trafficking cases in the High Court of Justice as opposed to the Magistrate’s Court. This amendment corrected a problem, noted since 2010, that impeded the government’s ability to prosecute and convict suspected traffickers. Antigua and Barbuda’s anti-trafficking act prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and fines of 400,000 to 600,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($148,000 to $222,000). These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Authorities conducted 10 trafficking investigations, including four sex trafficking investigations and five labor trafficking investigations, one of which involved the false recruitment of a caretaker from Guyana that remained under investigation. One investigation was discontinued due to insufficient evidence. The government has not reported any prosecutions of traffickers since 2011, though two suspects were charged during the reporting period. In comparison, authorities investigated and charged two suspected sex traffickers in two cases in 2014, although judges dismissed both cases due to the prior flaw in the law. The government has never reported any trafficking convictions. The national police acknowledged it struggled to identify perpetrators and obtain evidence. Credible sources raised concerns of continued possible trafficking-related complicity by police officers and an apparent conflict of interest in the practice of police officers providing security for sex trade establishments. The acting commissioner of police issued two directives ordering police officers to cease working at strip clubs; two officers were suspended for violating the new policy, but later were reinstated. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, NGOs reported that three investigations involved police officers, including one case in which a police officer went to the airport to collect the victim, another in which a police officer collaborated with the trafficker in the movement of a victim, and a third in which a police officer acted as security for an establishment involved in trafficking. Two of these officers received formal reprimands, but authorities took no further action due to insufficient evidence. One case remains under investigation. Some members of the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee, the national coordinating body, reported distrust of law enforcement within the population. The government did not train law enforcement or immigration officers on trafficking. Several members of the national coordinating body cited lack of training as an obstacle to anti-trafficking efforts.
The government made moderate progress in the protection of victims. The government identified 10 trafficking victims—two adult female Guyanese sex trafficking victims, four adult female Jamaican sex trafficking victims, and four adult male Haitian labor trafficking victims—an increase from seven identified in 2014. The immigration department began modifying its written procedures to identify victims at the port of entry. An anti-trafficking taskforce responded to 10 suspected trafficking situations, provided emergency relief, and informed the immigration department about 10 new victims. The gender affairs department funded victim services and continued to offer assistance to victims, such as counseling, health care, shelter, food and clothing, assistance to communicate with families, travel arrangements, and assistance with employment, work permits, and immigration relief, through an ad hoc referral process. This was augmented with in-kind donations from businesses. There are no specialized services for victims and no organized NGOs that shelter victims. In 2015, the government provided modest financial assistance to various entities for victim assistance. The government granted temporary residency to one victim for two weeks; at the close of the reporting period, the government had successfully repatriated all 10 identified victims upon request by the victims. One victim from an ongoing sex trafficking investigation supplied video testimony. The anti-trafficking law establishes that trafficking victims should not be returned to their own countries or a country from which they have been subjected to trafficking without consideration of their safety and the possibility of harm, death, or being subjected to trafficking again. The 2010 anti-trafficking act protects identified victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking. Per the anti-trafficking act, a victim can file a civil suit for restitution from a government official complicit in trafficking; however, the government reported no civil suits during the reporting period.
The government sustained modest prevention efforts. The ministry of national security estimated its annual budget for anti-trafficking efforts at 66,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($24,400), a six percent decrease from 2014 levels. The government conducted a week-long awareness-raising campaign, including a march; school, government office, and NGO visits; and a fair, which resulted in greater awareness of the crime and contributed to an anecdotal increase in calls to the government-run hotline that also serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Six of the 10 cases investigated in the reporting period originated with calls to the hotline. The anti-trafficking committee met 10 times during the reporting period, and continued to oversee implementation of the three-year national action plan, which expires in 2016. The government released a 2015 annual report on the efforts of the anti-trafficking committee during the reporting period. The government approved a new action plan, covering 2016 through 2018. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government and NGOs reported no evidence that child sex tourism occurred in Antigua and Barbuda; the government reported no child sex tourism investigations.