2018 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 remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating more suspected cases, increasing training to relevant government officials and NGOs; increasing its cooperation with foreign governments to combat trafficking; and improving its public awareness campaigns. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government’s anti-trafficking law, which allowed for fines in lieu of imprisonment, was not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes. Government agencies cited a lack of resources for anti-trafficking efforts.
Amend the trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment; increase government funding across all relevant agencies to combat trafficking; implement the 2016-2020 national action plan; increase investigations of suspected sex and labor trafficking cases; prosecute and convict traffickers; improve the quality and specialization of victim services; raise awareness about forced labor and sex trafficking and the need for public cooperation in law enforcement investigations; increase training for law enforcement on trafficking at all levels; and create new bilateral agreements with relevant source countries to better coordinate and combat trafficking.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 criminalized sex trafficking and forced labor and prescribed punishments of 15 years imprisonment, a fine of 250,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($92,590), or both. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. However, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated seven suspected cases of trafficking; this compared with three cases each year in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Of the seven cases, none resulted in arrest or prosecution due to a lack of evidence. The government requested and received technical assistance from an NGO, with partial foreign government funding, to improve law enforcement’s capacity to conduct victim-centered investigations. The government continued to cooperate with Trinidadian law enforcement to investigate a 2016 sex trafficking case involving a Vincentian national. With assistance from an EU grant, the police created a new survey tool that enabled new data collection on trafficking in the country; implementation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The police conducted several spot investigations at local bars and nightclubs throughout the country to surveil for trafficking. Authorities indicated the police need additional personnel and resources to more effectively investigate cases of trafficking.
There were no prosecutions during the reporting period (none in 2016), and the government has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not report any investigations of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The government provided funding for three investigators from the police department’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU) to participate in training in Guyana and Jamaica. The ATIPU conducted specialized anti-trafficking training for 69 new police recruits. The government signed a new bilateral agreement with Taiwan to increase training and coordination to combat trafficking.
The government improved victim protection efforts. The government identified four potential labor trafficking victims from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2017, compared to three victims in 2016; no victims were identified by NGOs. Procedures existed to guide the ATIPU, immigration department, and labor department in identifying and referring potential victims of trafficking; some observers noted the referral process could be strengthened. With technical assistance from an NGO, the government provided in-kind resources for training on victim identification guidelines for 37 personnel from 15 organizations covering law enforcement, relevant government ministries, and NGOs. The government’s domestic violence shelter could accommodate adult women and child trafficking victims. Three faith-based NGOs could house children subjected to trafficking. Some observers noted the quality of care for victims was insufficient. There were provisions in the trafficking act that offered protections to victims before, during, and after a trial, such as keeping the names of victims and their families confidential. There were provisions for witness protection programs and facilities for the victims to testify via video. The anti-trafficking law provided foreign victims with the possibility of temporary and permanent residence permits and protected victims from immediate deportation; benefits were not linked to cooperation in investigations or trials. Foreign victims who remained in country were allowed to work. Victims could obtain restitution via civil suits from traffickers; however, there were no reported cases of restitution during the reporting period.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The national task force, led by the prime minister, coordinated the anti-trafficking efforts of various government agencies. The government revised its 2016-2018 national action plan to include more specific strategic inputs, outcomes, and lead agencies involved and extended the plan to 2020. In 2016, an EU-funded technical assistance program on capacity building and institutional strengthening to combat trafficking was completed. The government signed an MOU between nine government agencies that assigned tasks and responsibilities to combat trafficking. Government agencies cited a lack of financial resources towards anti-trafficking efforts.
The government conducted a two-day training for law enforcement, government officials, civil society actors, and NGOs. The ATIPU conducted sensitization training to more than 400 nurses and teachers and 426 students in summer camps about trafficking, participated in two national radio appearances to sensitize the public on trafficking, and created a special exhibition in Kingstown to educate the public. The ATIPU also published information in print and online media highlighting recent trends in trafficking and ways to identify trafficking. The government reported regulating the licensing and recruitment of foreign workers. The government monitored its anti-trafficking efforts through quarterly and annual reports submitted to its national task force on trafficking and to the minister of national security. The annual report was submitted to the House of Assembly and made available to the public. There was a 24-hour hotline available to which citizens could report crimes, to include trafficking. The government made modest efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a source and destination 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 are subjected to both forced labor and sex trafficking in foreign countries. There are reports indicating child sex trafficking, facilitated by parents and caregivers, to be a problem in the country.