2017 Trafficking in Persons Report: St. Vincent and the Grenadines
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES: Tier 2
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by providing assistance to trafficking victims; increasing anti-trafficking training to relevant government officials and NGOs; improving public awareness campaigns; and conducting a baseline assessment of its overall efforts in order to provide recommendations for improvement. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. There remained deficiencies in its national action plan, investigations, and victim care. The guidelines for the referral of victims continued to lack the necessary details to make them effective. The government needed more specialized services for victims of human trafficking.
Investigate suspected sex and labor trafficking cases; prosecute and convict traffickers; expand the national action plan to better articulate the roles for responsible government officials and NGOs, and timelines for actions; increase trainings for relevant government officials and NGOs on the 2011 anti-trafficking act, trafficking indicators, and proper case investigation and management techniques; develop MOUs between relevant government ministries and NGOs to improve coordination and cooperation; raise awareness about forced labor and sex trafficking; and provide specialized services for trafficking victims.
The government improved anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of up to 20 years imprisonment and fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government cooperated with investigations of three trafficking cases in 2016 involving Vincentians exploited in foreign countries; this compares with investigations of three potential trafficking cases in 2015 and three in 2014. The government cooperated with Trinbagonian law enforcement to investigate one case. There were no prosecutions during the reporting period and the government had never convicted a trafficker. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. With foreign government and NGO assistance, the government sent two investigators to a trafficking-specific training seminar. The government also conducted anti-trafficking training for 30 law enforcement officials.
The government increased victim protection efforts. Officials reported working on three cases in 2016 and the government increased victim assistance compared to previous years. Officials assisted one victim, a Vincentian man, who travelled to Trinidad and Tobago to work as a security guard and was subjected to forced labor. The government aided in the repatriation of the victim, provided victim care services, and assisted the Trinbagonian authorities with the investigation. There were no other identified victims who required services. The government did not identify any trafficking victims during the year. Additionally, no victims were identified by NGOs, local activists, or other officials. The anti-trafficking police unit conducted combating human trafficking training for officers screening airline passengers, park rangers, faith-based organizations, and NGOs.
Immigration and labor department officials had developed and implemented victim identification guidelines to identify trafficking victims, which was an improvement from the last reporting period when there were no detailed guidelines in operation. The national anti-trafficking action plan provides guidelines for the referral of victims to appropriate shelter and services, but those guidelines continued to lack sufficient detail. The government had mechanisms to assist in the repatriation of victims, and the government repatriated one victim. The government did not fund any trafficking-specific assistance programs, but its domestic violence shelter could accommodate adult women and child trafficking victims. There were three faith-based NGOs that could house children subjected to trafficking; these NGOs received a small amount of government support. Some shelters had policies prohibiting residents from leaving at will. The government did not have the capacity to provide psychological care. The anti-trafficking law provided foreign victims with the possibility of temporary and permanent residence permits. Foreign victims who remain in country are allowed to work. There were provisions for witness protection programs and facilities for the victims to testify via video. There were no reports the government penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. Victims could obtain restitution via civil suits from traffickers, however, there were no reported cases of restitution during the reporting period.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government launched an anti-trafficking awareness campaign for 454 students and 44 teachers at primary and secondary schools; this is a decrease from 1,496 students and 113 teachers in 2015, but overall remains at a high level compared to previous reporting periods. The government conducted sensitization campaigns on human trafficking for the public via civil society groups, communities, summer camps (reaching 306 children), radio, churches, and television. The anti-trafficking unit increased surveillance at the airport in attempts to detect transnational human trafficking. The government instituted training for and reached over 90 percent of its diplomatic and consular staff at its overseas missions on matters related to human trafficking. With EU funding, the government commissioned a baseline assessment report from an independent consultant to assess its anti-trafficking efforts. The report recommended more specific articulation of the tasks and responsibilities among relevant government ministries, NGOs, and service providers, and timelines for actions under the national action plan for effective implementation, as well as more public awareness campaigns developed and targeted to specific audiences. The assessment recommended training and reinforcement of training to relevant government officials and NGOs in the definitions and indicators of trafficking (particularly related to forced prostitution of adults and child sex trafficking) and victim-centered investigations. The government monitored its anti-trafficking efforts through quarterly and annual reports, submitted to its national taskforce on trafficking and to the minister of national security. The annual report is submitted to the House of Assembly and made available to the public. The government made modest efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, by conducting public awareness campaigns on these issues.
As reported over the past five years, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a source and possibly transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Foreign women engaged in prostitution may have been subjected to sex trafficking in the country and foreign workers from South America and the Caribbean may have been subjected to trafficking for forced labor both in the country and while in transit. Foreign workers employed by small, foreign-owned companies may be vulnerable to labor trafficking. Men, women, and children are vulnerable to forced labor, primarily in agriculture; government officials and civil society suspect drug traffickers subject workers to forced labor in the production of marijuana. NGOs and government officials have reported Vincentians have been subjected to both forced labor and sex trafficking in foreign countries.