The Government of Trinidad and Tobago 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 Trinidad and Tobago remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by expanding authorities to collect intelligence on trafficking crimes and creating new task forces on intelligence gathering and prosecution to increase law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. It also doubled the budget for its anti-trafficking unit, increased anti-trafficking training for its officials, and initiated prosecution of a complicit official. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government experienced continued delays in prosecutions and had yet to secure a conviction under its anti-trafficking law. The government decreased the amount of funding for victim services. The government did not have policies or laws regulating foreign labor recruiters.

Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials and staff; increase proactive victim identification and screen among migrant populations; provide adequate funding for robust victim services, including accommodation; improve regulation of private labor recruitment agencies; increase training on trafficking for shelter staff; increase funding and services for language interpreters available to law enforcement and victim care; increase the ability to accept victim video testimony in court proceedings; increase the use of intelligence in trafficking investigations; and consider adding NGO representation to the anti-trafficking task force.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 15 years to life imprisonment and no less than 500,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) ($75,410), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government’s anti-trafficking unit investigated 38 possible cases of trafficking, compared with 46 cases in 2016 and 53 in 2015. Additionally, organizations such as the police, the Counter-Trafficking Unit (CTU), and the health, immigration, and labor ministries coordinated and executed 20 joint anti-trafficking operations on suspected brothels. The government initiated the prosecution of two suspects under the anti-trafficking law (five in 2016, five in 2015, and one in 2014). Additionally, two previously charged traffickers had hearings before the magistrate court and were committed to stand trial in high court. A total of 14 persons were before the magistrate’s court at the close of the reporting period; these cases were awaiting completion of preliminary inquiries. The government had not yet convicted an individual under its 2011 anti-trafficking law. The government created a new task force led by the Attorney General’s Office focused on advancing prosecutions to trial.

To further combat human trafficking, the government is in the planning stages for the creation of a new intelligence-led task force, coordinated by the Attorney General’s Office, comprising officials from the police, Defense Force, Strategic Services Agency, and the CTU. During the reporting period, the government amended its Strategic Services Agency Act to include trafficking under the category of “serious crimes,” for which intelligence is collected, which expanded the government’s capacity to identify possible cases. The government provided 7 million TTD ($1.1 million) to the CTU for fiscal year 2017-2018, compared to 3 million TTD ($452,490) for 2016-2017 and 8 million TTD ($1.2 million) for 2015-2016. During the reporting period, the CTU experienced a large personnel rotation, ultimately involving more than 60 percent of its personnel. This resulted in a delay in investigations due to officer training and awareness with the cases on file. During the reporting period, the CTU charged one person, a government employee, with trafficking. The government collaborated with Interpol on investigations of four potential trafficking cases. The CTU provided a sensitization training to 16 judges on preventing re-traumatization of trafficking victims. The government collaborated with and provided in-kind support for an international organization to deliver anti-trafficking training to 26 prosecutors and 25 immigration officers.

The government increased protection efforts. The government identified and referred 14 trafficking victims to care (13 in 2016, five in 2015, and eight in 2014). The 14 victims included one male minor and two adult males exploited for labor trafficking and one female minor and nine adult females exploited for sex trafficking. The victims originated from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Trinidad and Tobago. All victims identified were referred to care facilities for assistance; six victims were repatriated. All victims assisted with criminal investigations and received permits that allowed them to legally stay and work in the country; two victims were employed legally. The CTU spent approximately 198,900 TTD ($30,000) on victim care and protection, compared to 700,000 TTD ($105,580) in 2016 and 1 million TTD ($150,830) in 2015 and 2014. The government provided additional funding to NGO care providers through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.

The government, working primarily through the CTU, the children’s protective services agency, and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Gender and Child Affairs Office provided victim care services, sometimes in conjunction with local NGOs. The services provided by the government included free short- and long-term accommodation and food, counseling, medical services, provisions for overseas phone calls, language interpretation, and local transportation, as well as clothing, toiletries, and a travel bag. Other assistance available included pre-natal and post-natal care, psychological evaluations, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, access to library facilities, some job skills training, and overseas travel expenses related to repatriation. The government was also prepared to offer sign language and other disability services to victims. Adult female victims of trafficking were housed at domestic violence shelters run by vetted NGOs who worked with the CTU; registered shelters received government funding to house these victims. Adult male victims were placed at safe houses run by the security services. Child victims were housed in homes run by the child protective services agency. In 2016, the CTU acquired a property to establish a dedicated shelter for male and female victims; the government did not report progress in establishing this shelter. Experts noted working-level staff at NGOs and shelters would benefit from training on trafficking. The government finalized an agreement and standard operating procedures with the child protection services agency and with the shelters on trafficking victim care.

Victims housed in NGO-run shelters were allowed freedom of movement after an initial security assessment by the government; however, victims housed in domestic violence shelters were not permitted to leave unchaperoned or at will. However, some experts reported some trafficking victims left the shelters voluntarily. Language interpretation services were available for counseling sessions and police interviews; however, experts reported shelters did not have bilingual staff or volunteers. In addition, some government officials noted a shortage of certain interpreters available to assist with foreign national victim care and testimony. During the reporting period, court proceedings were being upgraded to accept video testimony; however, only written testimony could be used with the consent of the defense. Prosecutors noted defense attorneys rarely waived their right to cross-examination. The CTU provided 24/7 security for victims who participated in court proceedings.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The CTU, under the Ministry of National Security, was the lead entity for anti-trafficking efforts. The National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons was the national coordinating body. Some experts recommended the government add NGO representation to the ministerial task force to strengthen government-NGO partnerships and receive more NGO input into government decision-making. The government continued implementation of the 2016-2020 national plan of action. The plan had a monitoring and evaluation component involving quarterly and annual reports that were presented to parliament and available via open hearings. The labor ministry (MOLSED) and the CTU developed procedures for joint investigations and for the referral of suspected cases of trafficking. The government conducted a series of awareness campaigns in public education and information fairs, targeting police recruits, teachers, youth and young adults, and indigenous peoples. The government launched bilingual awareness campaigns, aimed at Spanish-speaking migrants, at the international airport. MOLSED also conducted radio and television announcements on child labor and the rights of domestic workers. The government made modest efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by developing public service announcements targeting the buyers of commercial sex. The government operated two hotlines, a national trafficking hotline and a national domestic violence hotline, that could receive human trafficking reports. The Ministry of National Security also funded anti-trafficking training for 20 defense officers, 30 air guard officers, 20 labor inspectors, and 77 airport authority and law enforcement staff. The CTU worked with an international organization to conduct training and sensitization to law enforcement, immigration, and social workers, to assist in the identification of potential trafficking victims.

There were no specific laws regulating private labor recruitment agencies; however, the government’s National Employment Service (NES) provided free assistance and information to job seekers and worked with the labor inspections unit to monitor contracts for work permits and recruitment practices to ensure consistently with labor laws. The MOLSED oversaw the recruitment process for the Caribbean Seasonal Agriculture Program, which facilitated employment on Canadian farms. Workers were provided with information about the program and officers monitored workers on the farms to prevent labor exploitation. The government provided training for diplomats.

As reported over the past five years, Trinidad and Tobago is a destination, transit, and source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Colombia are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels and clubs, often lured by offers of legitimate employment. Because of deteriorating economic conditions in their home country, Venezuelans are particularly vulnerable. LGBTI persons are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Many trafficking victims enter the country legally via Trinidad’s international airport, while others appear to enter illegally via small boats from Venezuela, which is only seven miles offshore. The government reports seeing more labor traffickers from the same country of origin as their victims. Migrants from the Caribbean region and from Asia, in particular those lacking legal status, are vulnerable to forced labor in domestic service and the retail sector. Corruption in police and immigration has in the past been associated with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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