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BARBADOS: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Barbados does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included investigating two trafficking cases, approving and funding a new national action plan, digitizing aspects of the criminal case management system, and creating mechanisms for victims and witnesses to testify virtually, if needed. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has not identified any trafficking victims in the past four reporting periods, has not initiated any prosecutions using the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act (TIPPA) since its enactment, and has never secured a trafficking conviction under the TIPPA. The government’s anti-trafficking law did not provide penalties that were commensurate with other serious crimes. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Barbados was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore Barbados remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.

Institutionalize victim identification and referral training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges to recognize trafficking indicators, improve evidence-gathering, and implement the anti-trafficking law. • Proactively screen vulnerable groups, including children, migrants, and Cuban workers for trafficking indicators and identify victims among these populations. • Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers with adequate sentences, including substantial imprisonment. • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses. • Implement the anti-trafficking manual and improve coordination with NGOs for victim referral. • Systematically monitor and assess national anti-trafficking efforts, share data with international partners, and ensure that information from the National Action Plan study is made public. • Provide trafficking victims, including potential victims, with adequate accommodations and access to trauma-informed service providers. • Increase awareness of human trafficking among the public. • Approve and implement the Mandatory Reporting Protocol on Child Abuse. • Amend the Recruiting of Workers Act to specify the government agency responsible for enforcement functions.

The government maintained minimal prosecution efforts. The TIPPA criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The penalties prescribed for adult trafficking were up to 25 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 1 million Barbados dollars (BDS) ($495,050), or both. The penalties prescribed for child trafficking were up to life imprisonment, a fine of up to 2 million BDS ($990,100), or both. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. However, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment for sex trafficking was not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported initiating a process with the assistance of a foreign government to revise the sentencing guidelines for human trafficking and other crimes in order to eliminate fines as an alternative to imprisonment; the process remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

The government reported two new investigations during the reporting period, one for suspected sex trafficking involving four foreign female suspects, and another for suspected labor trafficking involving one foreign male suspect. This compares to two investigations in 2019 and 2018, five in 2017, and three in 2016. The government did not report initiating prosecutions under the TIPPA during the reporting period. The government has not reported initiating a prosecution since 2013, and that prosecution remained pending. The government has never convicted a trafficker under the 2016 TIPPA, reflecting long lags between arrests and prosecutions across the justice system. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.

The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) investigated all potential human trafficking cases, while the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was responsible for prosecuting human trafficking cases. The government reported these entities had island-wide jurisdiction and their responsibilities extended beyond human trafficking. There were no courts solely dedicated to hearing human trafficking cases; any such cases could be heard in one of the five criminal courts. Law enforcement contacts 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. These jury trials by law could not take place remotely and therefore, no trafficking or other serious criminal cases were prosecuted during national lockdowns from March-July 2020 and January 2021 through the end of the reporting period due to the pandemic. The government reported this exacerbated an already substantial court backlog. The government reported the RBPF, the DPP, and the courts had dedicated budgets, with the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit funded through the RBPF budget. The government reported these entities had adequate financial resources during the reporting period. The government reported essential services, including the RBPF, worked throughout the pandemic but reported authorities had to forego some operational aspects, including raids. The government reported difficulties with evidence gathering, particularly data collection and analysis, that existed prior to the pandemic. The police began to replace paper-based records with a fully digitized case management system during the reporting period to comprehensively capture crime and violence data, including trafficking. The government reported sensitization to human trafficking crimes was part of recruitment training for police. The government reported that if a sex tourism case were associated with human trafficking, the suspect could be tried for crimes committed abroad.

The government maintained minimal efforts to protect victims. The government has not identified a victim since 2016, when the government identified eight victims. The government reported law enforcement screened for trafficking indicators when detaining or arresting individuals involved in commercial sex, migrants, or other vulnerable groups. The government reported it did not receive any victim referrals from NGOs or civil society organizations. Two local NGOs reported that in the course of their work supporting victims of sexual and gender-based violence, they sometimes discovered a possible trafficking connection when the victim was an undocumented foreigner in irregular immigration status. These NGOs reported encountering approximately 20-30 potential trafficking victims during the reporting period, an increase from previous years, probably due to pandemic-driven economic hardship. However, the NGOs reported they did not formally document or report their findings to authorities, citing fear of retaliation from the traffickers against the potential victims.

During the reporting period, Cuban medical workers provided health services in response to the pandemic and Cuban athletic coaches worked in the country. The government reported that the Cuban medical workers were working under legal contract and were being treated in accordance with local labor laws but did not provide a copy of the contract. The government did not report any activities of the National Committee for Monitoring the Rights of the Child, which was responsible for outreach on protections for children, including against sex trafficking.

Both the police and immigration used standard operating procedures (SOPs) to interview potential victims. The government reported it updated the SOPs during the previous reporting period to take into account changing trafficking modes; the government had not approved the revised SOPs at the end of the reporting period. A formal referral process for government authorities and NGOs existed for victim care, as required by law, but the government reported having only an informal process by which the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit would identify a potential victim and then refer them to other members of the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (Task Force) for service provision. The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit also could place victims in protective care and refer them to an NGO-operated safe house, although it did not do so this reporting period. The government designated the Gender Affairs Bureau as the government coordinator for local NGO assistance to victims.

Under the TIPPA, all victims, including those with disabilities, had to be provided safe shelter, counseling, health care, and information regarding their rights. A foreign victim of trafficking and the victim’s accompanying dependent children could receive, for the duration of their stay and at the relevant minister’s discretion, support that included housing or safe shelter, education and training opportunities, psychological counseling, legal assistance, help with obtaining documents, living expenses, and medical assistance. Authorities could interview victims to ascertain their housing and general health care needs. The government had the capacity and financial resources to provide all services except housing but did not report doing so during the reporting period. There was no specialized shelter for trafficking victims. Female trafficking victims and their dependents could reside at an NGO-operated women’s domestic shelter; however, this shelter did not have the resources for, and previously struggled to assist, trafficking victims. The government had a separate agreement with an NGO to provide accommodations to male victims. Adult victims could leave shelters unchaperoned and could work while receiving assistance. The children’s care board could provide care for any identified child victims.

The TIPPA authorized the government to provide safeguards for victims’ identities and those of their families, issue work permits, and provide transportation and security during legal proceedings. Authorities initiated new measures during the reporting period to enable trafficking victims and witnesses to provide testimony virtually, including from other countries, but did not report using these measures during the reporting period. The government could accommodate victims who wished to be repatriated in a safe place; they could return without unreasonable delay. The government maintained an informal policy allowing foreign victims to receive temporary legal status as an alternative to their removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution by traffickers. The Minister of National Security could authorize victims, on a case-by-case basis, to remain and work in the country; however, the government did not report granting this status during the reporting period as it identified no victims. Government policy permitted victims to leave the country and return for hearings, but the government did not report any such instances during the reporting period. The TIPPA allowed courts to order restitution from a trafficker after a conviction; however, no victims received restitution during the reporting period.

The government increased prevention efforts. The Attorney General headed the Task Force, which included representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Labour and Social Relations, the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, the Commissioner of Police of the RBPF, the Chief Immigration Officer, the Chief Labour Officer, the Chief Welfare Officer, the Bureau of Gender Affairs, and a professional women’s association. In March 2021, the Cabinet approved an anti-trafficking national action plan developed with support from two foreign governments and delayed since 2016. The government announced the action plan through a March 2021 press release and allocated 125,000 BDS ($61,880) to implement the plan for two years. As an action item, the plan included conducting a study to determine the nature and extent of trafficking in the country, which would subsequently guide the government’s efforts to combat trafficking.

The government took significant measures to mitigate the economic and social effects of the pandemic, including through economic stimulus initiatives and expanded social support programs that involved all government ministries and consumed extensive human and financial resources, including those used for anti-trafficking efforts. Nearly the entire staff of the Attorney General’s Office worked on enforcing the government’s pandemic response. The government diverted anti-trafficking personnel to support pandemic-response efforts. However, the government reported the Task Force continued to meet and develop the action plan. The government reported the Labor Department conducted its inspection functions in a limited manner as a result of pandemic-related movement restrictions. The Labor Department regulated recruitment agencies under the Recruiting of Workers Act; however, the law did not identify the responsible agency for the associated enforcement functions. The government reported it was considering reviewing the Act. There were no labor recruiters or brokers operating in the country during the reporting period. The government reported it maintained two liaison offices overseas to recruit nationals for work in other countries, and this cooperation helped minimize the exploitation of workers. The government promulgated through mass media the Protocol to Address Migrant Labor Conditions, which described the legal framework governing employers, explained employees’ rights, and served to sensitize employers, employees, and the public about possible labor violations. There were no reports of forced labor during the reporting period.

The government reported that in August 2020, an officer from the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit delivered an anti-trafficking awareness presentation to the staff of the Ministry of Labor and Social Partnership Relations (MLSP), including the Barbados Employment Career and Counseling Services. The government reported migrant workers could enter and leave the country if they wished as long as they observed all health protocols. The government reported it made no changes to these workers’ immigration status and made pandemic-related benefits available to anyone residing in the country. The government did not report whether it had approved the Mandatory Reporting Protocol on Child Abuse, which addresses child labor conditions, employers’ legal responsibilities, and employee rights.

The government operated a police hotline number that could receive information on potential trafficking crimes; authorities did not report receiving any trafficking information from the hotline during the reporting period. An NGO operated a human trafficking hotline but did not receive any trafficking-related calls during the reporting period. The government began efforts to create a platform for a virtual library on human trafficking for the use of prosecutors and other authorities. The government adopted the National Identity Management Act, which created a national register of citizens and noncitizens and should enable the maintenance of an accurate database of citizens and residents. The act also required individuals to present their national identify card in order to receive certain government services. The government reported that in March 2021, two representatives from the Task Force briefed the country’s newly appointed diplomats, as well as its staff from overseas missions, on human trafficking, including domestic servitude. Authorities reported that all diplomats received training, including on human trafficking, before taking up overseas postings. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Barbados. Observers report traffickers exploit foreign women in sex trafficking in Barbados. Documented and undocumented migrants from Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and Venezuela are at high risk for trafficking, although individuals from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are increasingly vulnerable. There are anecdotal reports of parents and caregivers exploiting children in sex trafficking. A UN expert noted in 2017 that Barbados was a transit country for child trafficking at that time. Cuban nationals in the country may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Previously, traffickers operated as part of an organization; more recently, they appear to operate individually. Authorities have noted an increase in use of social media as a means of recruiting victims, which may have increased further due to the pandemic.

U.S. Department of State

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