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ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: Tier 2

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda 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 Antigua and Barbuda remained on Tier 2. These efforts included increasing investigations and prosecutions, stronger international cooperation on trafficking case investigations, dedicating funding to victim protection, and increasing anti-trafficking law enforcement training and awareness raising. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in key areas. The government identified and protected fewer victims, and the government has never convicted a trafficker.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers, including complicit officials.Increase efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations, such as migrants and individuals in commercial sex.Implement standard operating procedures government-wide on proactive identification and referral of victims and train front-line agencies in indicators of forced labor and sex trafficking.Increase trauma-informed training on trafficking for NGO, shelter, and social services staff to improve their ability to care for potential trafficking victims.Target police, prosecutor, and judicial training on improved trafficking case evidence collection that is acceptable in court and police hearings.Provide adequate funding to implement the national action plan across all agencies.Develop formal agreements with international organizations and countries for cooperation and information sharing, including on evidence and data collection, as well as victim assistance.Conduct and publish analysis of government anti-trafficking efforts and accomplishments.

PROSECUTION

The government increased prosecution efforts. The 2010 Trafficking In Persons (Prevention) Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 400,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($148,150) for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 600,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($222,220) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.

Authorities investigated 10 cases of potential trafficking during the reporting period, compared with seven cases in 2018 and eight in 2017. Prosecutors determined two of the original 10 cases were trafficking, one sex trafficking, and the other domestic servitude. Out of the eight remaining cases, the police prevented a third potential labor trafficking case at the airport and referred the other seven cases to other authorities. The government did not report whether investigations for children reported to be at risk in the domestic service and retail sectors took place during the reporting period. Prosecutors charged three suspected traffickers from 2018 investigations during the reporting period. The government reported one trafficking prosecution is assigned to the high court, but the trial date will be delayed during a high court suspension of all trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the second trafficking prosecution was delayed while the government worked with INTERPOL to locate a repatriated victim. The government has never reported any trafficking convictions. In December 2019, the government amended the Trafficking In Persons Act to formally establish the Trafficking In Persons Prevention Committee (TPPC) under the Ministry of Public Safety and Labor with enforcement, research and victim advocacy functions, as well as staff accountability. The enforcement unit includes officers from police, immigration, Coast Guard, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy offices and reports to the TPPC. TPPC conducted a number of anti-trafficking trainings during the reporting year, reaching 92 police recruits and officers at the police academy and 25 police stationed at the dockyard in trafficking indicators. The task force also conducted trafficking awareness sessions for 118 customs officers, 18 taxi drivers, and 23 new airport staff.

The government reported the outcome of a 2018 police standards committee hearing with three police officers suspected of indirect involvement in a 2015 trafficking crimes case; the officers were found to be not guilty due to lack of sufficient evidence to prove the case. The police force typically chose administrative sanctions for officers suspected or implicated in trafficking rather than charging them with a crime under the country’s trafficking laws. The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The government is cooperating with the Governments of Guyana and Jamaica to investigate both current trafficking cases initiated in the reporting period.

PROTECTION

The government maintained minimal protection efforts. The government identified two victims, both adult females, one from Guyana for domestic servitude, and the other from Jamaica for sex trafficking, compared with five victims identified in 2018 and nine in 2017. There were anecdotal reports of parents and caregivers exploiting children in sex trafficking, but the government did not report investigating them. The government had formal written procedures to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services officials in screening and identification of potential victims, although observers noted these were used inconsistently with forced labor victims. The Cases Task Force under the TPPC was responsible for screening and identifying victims of human trafficking and referring victims to an assigned victim care officer for care and protection. Both victims received medical care, lodging, clothing, and repatriation assistance and had the option of participating in an international agency reintegration program. The government provided 78,610 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($29,110) to the gender affairs department for victim care and support; each victim also received contributions donated from businesses.

TPPC provided an on-call consultant physician to provide medical care to victims; the gender affairs division coordinated shelter on an ad-hoc basis. The victim care infrastructure consists of a network of providers coordinated by the gender affairs division under the TPPC. The government has a crisis center for trafficking victims, which includes victims of domestic violence and has a long-term shelter through an informal network organized by the Ministry of Public Safety. Both identified victims cooperated with law enforcement investigations. The government could provide temporary residency status as an alternative to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution by traffickers; this assistance was not contingent on assisting law enforcement. The government allowed testimony via video or written statement, although it had not reported using these methods in court to date. In December 2019, child protection officers participated in a Caribbean conference to enhance professional knowledge and skills in child protection, including child trafficking.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Security and Labor chaired the TPPC, which is the coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts. The TPPC, which included representatives from various government agencies and one NGO, continued implementing the 2019-2021 national action plan. The government increased the total 2019 budget for anti-trafficking efforts to 452,150 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($167,460), including designated broadcasting funds, compared with the 2018 budget of 424,370 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($157,180). Although government agencies cited lack of funding as a key deficiency in increasing anti-trafficking efforts, the TPPC noted they had adequate funding during the reporting period.

The working-level anti-trafficking unit within the Ministry of National Security worked under the TPPC on the coordination of anti-trafficking training and hosted a variety of anti-trafficking activities around the country. The TPPC made awareness presentations to schools, reaching more than 800 school and work-life students, teachers, and parents. For the third year, the government held a weeklong anti-trafficking fair and awareness walk, including more than 400 church members, hosted online chats on social media, produced public service announcements on four radio stations and a television station, and placed billboards around the country. The government also conducted anti-trafficking training with labor inspectors and immigration officials. The government disseminated a report from an internationally funded project to build capacity for anti-trafficking training and awareness activities and for strengthening regional cooperation. The government did not report any trafficking calls to the hotline, explaining that people prefer to call other emergency numbers or individual members of the TPPC with whom they are familiar; no calls of this nature were reported. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Antigua and Barbuda, and traffickers exploit victims from Antigua and Barbuda abroad. Documented and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean region, notably Jamaica, Guyana, and the Dominican Republic, were identified as victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. Authorities reported an increased number of trafficking victims in multiple-destination trafficking, arriving in Antigua and Barbuda for a few months before their traffickers exploited them in other Caribbean countries, such as St. Kitts and Nevis and Barbados. Sex trafficking occurs in bars, taverns, and brothels, including with minor girls. There are anecdotal reports of parents and caregivers subjecting children to sex trafficking. Forced labor, including of children, occurs in domestic service and the retail sector, particularly in family-owned businesses. There were reports of trafficking-related complicity by police officers who tend to receive administrative sanctions instead of being tried under the trafficking law.

U.S. Department of State

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