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 ATIPU investigated one case of labor trafficking, compared with five suspected cases in 2019 and four cases in 2018. The case involved one alleged trafficker and eight potential victims, all of whom were young women recruited to work as nannies and housekeepers in the Grenadines. Authorities did not prosecute the suspected trafficker during the reporting period; the investigation remained ongoing. Authorities did not prosecute any alleged traffickers under the Trafficking Act during the reporting period, with the last prosecution in 2015, and the government has never convicted a trafficker. The lack of prosecutions – including in the latest case – and convictions and the dismissal of past trafficking cases over several years indicated shortcomings in the government’s ability to acquire sufficient evidence to bring cases to trial. Authorities indicated the police needed additional personnel and resources to investigate and collect evidence effectively in trafficking cases. The ATIPU reported it needed additional staff, computer and office equipment, office space, and a dedicated vehicle to combat human trafficking more effectively. During the reporting period, the ATIPU had to request vehicles on an ad hoc basis from the police force’s general motor pool. The pandemic response restricted the ATIPU’s activities, and investigative agencies reported a reduction in reports of suspected trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. Court cases for all matters during the reporting period were delayed due to physical distancing restrictions due to the pandemic; the government suspended jury trials from mid-March through late June 2020, while pre-trial hearings took place virtually. The ATIPU conducted surveillance at the airport and seaports of entry, marinas, bars, and nightclubs, entertainment spots, restaurants, beaches, and social events to identify possible signs of recruitment of potential trafficking victims. The government reported that a lack of awareness about human trafficking impeded the public from reporting suspected trafficking cases and cooperating on trafficking investigations. The ATIPU funded and conducted specialized anti-trafficking training – covering the law and trial process, child trafficking, victim care, trafficking indicators, and causes and consequences of the crime – for 181 new police recruits, the entire staff of the Sexual Offenses Unit, and more experienced police officers taking a refresher course. The ATIPU reported sharing human trafficking information with regional organizations and with three foreign governments in the region to compare case similarities and learn from their experience in identifying and handling trafficking cases.