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, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, Antigua and Barbuda remained on Tier 2. These efforts included creating a new anti-trafficking unit; working with an international organization to develop preventative measures for migrants; and continuing anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not identify any victims. It did not initiate any investigations or prosecute or convict any traffickers.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers, including complicit officials. • Increase efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations, such as migrants, individuals in commercial sex, and Chinese and Cuban workers on foreign government-sponsored programs. • 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. • Reduce delays in court proceedings. • 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.

The government decreased 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.

The government did not report any new investigations during the reporting period, compared to ten cases investigated in 2019 and seven in 2018. Authorities continued to investigate one sex trafficking case and one forced labor case initiated in previous reporting periods. The government did not report investigations of suspected child trafficking in domestic service and the retail sector. There were anecdotal reports of parents and caregivers exploiting children in sex trafficking. The government did not report initiating any prosecutions during the reporting period, compared to three prosecutions in the previous reporting period. Authorities continued to prosecute three suspected traffickers from 2018 who still awaited trial at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report convicting any traffickers for the second consecutive year. The government reported that police and the courts revised their operating procedures to address pandemic-related health concerns, resulting in limitations on investigations and judicial proceedings. The government reported that serious criminal cases, including trafficking cases, required in-person jury trials unless the defendant was pleading guilty or in rare instances where the case involved no witnesses. As jury trials by law could not take place remotely, no trafficking or other serious criminal cases were prosecuted for the entire reporting period after jury trials ceased in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The government reported this led to substantial court backlogs, exacerbating already existing substantial delays. During the reporting period and in cooperation with a foreign donor, the government created the ability to hold virtual hearings for civil cases, case management hearings, bail applications, and criminal cases with no witnesses or where the defendant plead guilty.

The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Committee (TPPC) oversaw the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Unit (TIP Unit), created during the reporting period, which included four full-time staff and an unspecified number of law enforcement officers drawn from the police, immigration, Coast Guard, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy who were knowledgeable about human trafficking, victim services, and investigations. The TIP Unit served as the investigative arm of the TPPC and was solely responsible for investigating trafficking, implementing the national human trafficking prevention objectives, and increasing anti-trafficking awareness efforts to improve overall efficiency. The government conducted random inspections of businesses suspected of being involved in commercial sex. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. There were reports of trafficking-related complicity by police officers who tended to receive administrative sanctions instead of being tried under the trafficking law. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement due to pandemic restrictions that halted in-person training; the Police Academy’s training manual included trafficking crimes. Authorities approached one country in the region for assistance with a trafficking investigation.

The government decreased protection efforts. The government did not identify or refer to care any victims during the reporting period, compared to two victims in 2019 and five victims in 2018. The government had formal written procedures to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services officials in the screening and identification of potential victims, although observers noted the government used them inconsistently with forced labor victims.

While the government did not identify victims or report providing care to victims during the year, services remained available and may have served potential victims. Under the TPPC, a senior police officer chaired the Cases Task Force, which was responsible for screening and identifying victims of human trafficking and referring victims to an assigned victim care officer for care and protection. The government reported that the pandemic-related restrictions including curfews and business closures reduced the Cases Task Force’s activities. The TPPC provided an on-call consultant physician to provide medical care to victims. The country did not utilize shelters for trafficking victims, but rather a long/short-term safe space option for adults and children. The safe spaces consisted of privately owned properties from corporate citizens, which the Cases Task Force and selected law enforcement agencies manned and secured based on needs. A child would receive additional services from the Family and Social Services Division. Safe spaces were solely for victims of human trafficking. The government reported there was no time limit to victim care services. The government could provide temporary residency status as an alternative to removal to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution by traffickers; this assistance was not contingent on assisting law enforcement. Victims could obtain a work permit or leave the country after the Cases Task Force approved a satisfactory risk assessment. The government reported that when victims sought housing in a safe space, they all wished to return home. In these cases, the government contacted an international organization and the relevant local human trafficking unit in the country of origin for reintegration. The government informed potential victims of their rights and that their participation in investigations and prosecutions was voluntary; victims could decline any or all assistance offered. The government had a policy of not disclosing a victim’s location, providing security at the victim’s location and in transit, allowing for testimony via video link, and not disclosing a victim’s identity to the public or media. However, the government did not report using any of these methods during the reporting period. The government did not report any cases where a victim had sought restitution, although the law allowed for a victim to do so.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The pandemic impacted the country’s economy and severely limited the government’s capacity to meet its commitments and obligations. The Solicitor General led the TPPC, which served as the national coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts with representatives from across the government and one NGO; the TPPC carried out enforcement, research, and victim advocacy functions. The TPPC met monthly during the reporting period. The TPPC continued implementation of the 2019-2021 National Action Plan. The government did not report specific budget data related to its anti-trafficking efforts but reported its anti-trafficking budget provided funding for the national action plan. However, government financial resources including salaries for anti-trafficking officials were under severe strain in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and prior to the pandemic government agencies cited lack of funding as a key deficiency. NGOs participated in the implementation of the national action plan. The government published an annual report containing general information on human trafficking and a summary of its anti-trafficking efforts as it had done in prior years.

The government maintained public awareness efforts, despite the pandemic. Authorities funded and carried out an anti-trafficking awareness campaign via billboards, national television, and other media. The awareness campaign targeted schools, community groups, NGOs, churches, and college students that reached at least 122 individuals in comparison to 800 individuals in the previous reporting period. The government also organized an “Awareness Week” with social partners that included a street fair that reached 65 individuals, radio programs, and an awareness walk on preventing trafficking; the awareness week in the previous reporting period reached 400 individuals. The government maintained a hotline for domestic abuse and gender-based violence that could receive calls regarding trafficking but received no such calls out of the 55 total calls received during the reporting period; people preferred to call other emergency numbers or individual members of the TPPC with whom they were familiar.

The government did not report whether labor recruiters charged fees. The government implemented new procedures for the issuance of work permits to foreign nationals to strengthen labor laws, the economic migration process, and protection for workers including against trafficking; foreign nationals could not enter the country until the Ministry of Labor (MOL) approved a work permit and MOL interviewed all applicants for renewal permits. To raise awareness among migrant laborers on the risks of human trafficking, the government, in coordination with an international organization, posted labor laws and regulations on government and other websites, posted signage at all ports of entry, and conducted awareness training for front-line workers (immigration, police, customs, and labor officers) on how to interview and communicate with migrant workers. Authorities closed all sea and air traffic from March until June 2020 to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, limiting migration to the country. When the borders re-opened, external transportation links remained extremely limited, and strict ongoing travel health protocols restricted cross-border movement. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not report on efforts to prevent sex tourism. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The government did not enter into any new agreements with other countries.

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 migrants from the Caribbean region, notably Jamaica, Guyana, and 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 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. Cubans working in Antigua and Barbuda may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Chinese nationals working in Antigua and Barbuda may have been forced to work, including by PRC state-owned enterprises.

U.S. Department of State

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