The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore St. Vincent and the Grenadines remained on Tier 2. These efforts included passing an act that allowed authorities to screen for suspected traffickers and trafficking victims, increasing training to relevant government officials, increasing cooperation with foreign governments to combat trafficking, extending and updating the national action plan through 2020, and improving its public awareness campaigns. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Authorities have not prosecuted a trafficking case since 2015 and have never convicted a trafficker. 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.

Increase investigations of suspected sex and labor trafficking cases, particularly among children.

• Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers.

• Improve the quality and specialization of victim services.

• Amend the trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses.

• Increase government funding across all relevant agencies to combat trafficking.

• Raise awareness about forced labor and sex trafficking and the need for public cooperation in law enforcement investigations.

• Increase training for law enforcement on evidence collection in human trafficking at all levels.

• Create new bilateral agreements with relevant source countries to better coordinate and combat trafficking.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 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 for sex trafficking offenses were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated four suspected cases of trafficking, compared with seven cases in 2017 and three cases each year in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Of the four cases, none resulted in arrest or prosecution due to lack of evidence. The government did not report an update on several 2017 cases of sex traffickers purchasing sex from minors. The government was collaborating with The Bahamian government on a possible trafficking case. The police conducted several spot investigations at ports of entry, marinas, bars, and nightclubs throughout the country to surveil for trafficking. Authorities indicated the police needed additional personnel and resources to more effectively investigate cases of trafficking. The government did not report whether there was trafficking in pending child abuse court cases. There were no prosecutions during the reporting period (the last prosecution was in 2015) and the government has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The government’s Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATIPU) funded and conducted trafficking training for 41 new police recruits at the Police Training School and a member of the ATIPU participated in anti-trafficking training in Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, and Belgium.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. Authorities identified four potential labor trafficking victims from St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2018, compared to four potential victims identified in 2017; NGOs did not identify any victims. Procedures existed to guide the ATIPU, immigration department, and labor department in identifying and referring potential victims; some observers noted the government’s referral process requiring officers to identify indicators of trafficking and refer potential victims to higher ranking officers did not always work. The government operated a crisis center that provided medical, psychological, housing, and financial services jointly with NGOs for victims of domestic violence and trafficking, although victims could not leave the shelter at will. There were no shelter facilities for male victims. Outside observers noted that facilities for victims were not well maintained. Provisions in the trafficking act 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; victim 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.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The national task force, led by the prime minister, coordinated the anti-trafficking efforts of various government agencies. The government extended its 2016-2018 national action plan to 2020, added strategic inputs, and reported on outcomes. The government passed the Advance Passenger Information Act, which enabled authorities to pre-screen arriving and outbound passengers for known or suspected traffickers and pass relevant information to warn law enforcement in other countries as well. Government agencies cited a lack of financial resources for anti-trafficking efforts. The government routinely conducted labor inspections of hotels, farms, stores, bars, industries, security workplaces, and domestic work locations, although their stated lack of personnel and funding may have prevented coverage of work sites with the most vulnerable workers. The ATIPU displayed posters and brochures to raise awareness at crime prevention exhibitions in June and December 2018 and at all police stations to urge citizens to alert the authorities of potential cases. The government conducted a summer outreach program for youths from different churches and youth groups and awareness training for teachers and students at primary and secondary schools. In addition, the government held three days of anti-trafficking activities in recognition of UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons in July and distributed more than 1,000 informational brochures to the public. The government operated 24-hour hotlines but the government reported that no calls were received. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and traffickers exploit victims from St. Vincent and the Grenadines abroad. Foreign women engaged in prostitution in the country may have been subjected to sex trafficking, and foreign workers from South America, the Caribbean, and Asia may have been subjected to 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. 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, is a problem in the country.

U.S. Department of State

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