The government maintained limited efforts to protect victims. Authorities continued to implement a formal victim-centered protocol to guide front-line responders in identifying both sex and labor trafficking victims and referring them to services. However, concerns remained on the thoroughness of their application when dealing with vulnerable populations, such as migrants. The national trafficking commission funded and trained member agencies and ministries in their roles in identifying and protecting victims and making referrals. During the reporting period, the government screened 60 potential trafficking victims and identified one victim, compared with screening 37 potential victims and identifying five victims in 2016. The identified victim received an immigration certificate, government-funded housing, and medical, psychological, legal, and reintegration assistance.
The government reported spending approximately 82,060 Bahamian dollars ($82,060) on trafficking victims’ care—which included assisting victims’ children and continued funding for trafficking victims from prior reporting periods—compared to 59,450 Bahamian dollars ($59,450) in 2016. The government also provided subsidies of 240,000 Bahamian dollars ($240,000) to four NGOs that provide services to trafficking victims, among other vulnerable groups. The government granted one foreign victim relief from deportation. Migrants remained vulnerable to rapid arrest and summary deportation by Royal Bahamian Defense forces without proper trafficking screening, and ineffective screening of other vulnerable populations for indicators of trafficking, such as those in prostitution, may have led to arrests of victims. Authorities encouraged trafficking victims to assist in prosecutions by providing lodging, food, a stipend, clothing and other basic necessities, medical assistance and psychological counseling, immigration relief, legal assistance, support during court proceedings, and witness protection, which may include police protection as needed. Government assistance was not contingent upon cooperation by victims. Bahamian law permits victim testimony via live television links and for the reading of written statements into evidence; however, in 2016, a magistrate acquitted three traffickers in part because the victims could not be cross-examined. The identified victim during the reporting period chose to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their cases. The anti-trafficking act authorized the court to order convicted defendants to pay restitution to victims; however, such restitution was not ordered in 2017.