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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, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore St. Vincent and the Grenadines remained on Tier 2. These efforts included increased training for police, the addition of an NGO as a member of the Anti Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU), the updating and funding of an anti-trafficking national action plan, and expanded 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, and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms. • Amend the trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses. • Increase government funding and resources across all relevant agencies to combat trafficking. • Improve the quality and specialization of victim services. • Screen vulnerable populations, including Cuban medical workers, for trafficking indicators and refer trafficking victims to care. • Focus training for police, prosecutors, and the judiciary on improved evidence collection in trafficking cases, ensuring evidence presented meets applicable legal standards. • Increase the capacity of labor inspectors to identify and refer to care victims of labor trafficking, including children. • Eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers. • Continue to raise awareness about labor trafficking and sex trafficking and the need for public cooperation in law enforcement investigations in traditional and social media. • 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 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.

The government maintained minimal victim protection efforts. Authorities screened eight potential trafficking victims in 2020, compared with five in 2019 and four in 2018. The government reported that a formal referral procedure existed for potential trafficking victims, by which the ATIPU, immigration department, or labor department had responsibility to interview and screen potential victims, and then refer those identified as victims to a crisis center the government funded and operated in collaboration with NGOs for victims of domestic violence and trafficking; the center offered a shelter, social care, and medical, psychological, and financial assistance. The government reported that adult victims had the option to leave the shelter at will. Some observers noted that the government’s victim referral process did not include referrals from civil society and kept potential victims in law enforcement custody instead of moving them to the crisis center. The government did not provide shelter facilities for male victims, and outside observers noted the quality of care for victims was not sufficient. During the reporting period, the government provided funding to the Ministry of National Security, which oversaw the ATIPU, but it did not report the specific amount provided for trafficking victim services, as it was allocated through existing budgets of different ministries. Provisions in the trafficking act called for protections for victims before, during, and after a trial, such as keeping the names of victims and their families confidential, witness protection programs, and facilities for victims to testify via video; however, the government did not use these provisions for any victims during the reporting period. 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 with law enforcement. Authorities did not grant temporary or permanent residency to any victims during the reporting period. Foreign victims who remained in the country were allowed to work. The government did not report any cases where the courts ordered restitution paid to trafficking victims during the reporting period; it also did not report any situations where victims required government assistance with repatriation. The government invited Cuban medical workers in the country to assist in the pandemic healthcare response and signed a bilateral agreement with Cuba governing the work and living arrangements for the medical professionals. The government reported Cuban medical workers retained their passports; however, authorities did not report screening the medical workers for trafficking indicators or implementing measures to ensure workers kept their wages.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The national task force, led by the prime minister, coordinated the anti-trafficking efforts of various government agencies. Despite the impediments caused by the pandemic, the ATIPU continued to convene both in-person and virtual interagency meetings during the reporting period. The ATIPU officially added a domestic NGO as a member in September 2020. The government updated and funded the country’s anti-trafficking National Action Plan for the period 2021-2025. To raise public awareness, the ATIPU produced quarterly and annual trafficking reports and presented them to the House of Assembly; the ATIPU also made the reports publicly available. The pandemic displaced large numbers of workers, and the government implemented an unemployment insurance program for this population, which may have reduced their vulnerability to human trafficking. The ATIPU operated three 24-hour English-speaking hotlines, including a dedicated trafficking hotline, an emergency number, and a police operator, and it also monitored an email address for reporting suspected trafficking cases; authorities identified eight potential victims via the hotline during the reporting period compared to none in 2019. Health-related restrictions hindered in-person delivery of trainings and public awareness campaigns during the reporting period; however, the government funded and provided trafficking sensitization sessions in-person and virtually for an NGO, four churches, two schools, and 25 health care workers during the reporting period. The Prime Minister commemorated the UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons with a radio address, and the ATIPU used radio and TV to urge citizens to be vigilant and alert the authorities of potential trafficking cases. The ATIPU continued its awareness-raising campaign by disseminating posters, stickers, and brochures at the international airport and other popular sites; it also partnered with an NGO to place new anti-trafficking banners in the arrivals and departures areas of the international airport. The ATIPU participated in two crime prevention exhibitions hosted by the police’s Crime Prevention Unit in July and December 2020, one virtually and one in-person. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel in 2020 due to pandemic-related impediments; in previous reporting periods, the government provided such training on a biannual basis to coincide with the return of accredited diplomats for consultations in Kingstown. The government routinely conducted both planned and unannounced 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. Labor department officials reported conducting 37 inspections in 2020, compared to 42 such inspections in 2019. Authorities conducted all the inspections at work sites. The government did not report whether labor laws regulate labor recruiters or ban employee-paid recruitment fees. The government did not train labor inspectors on child labor, although the government reported labor inspectors screen for indicators of child labor and trafficking and police receive training to investigate child labor crimes. 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and traffickers exploit victims from St. Vincent and the Grenadines abroad. Foreign women in commercial sex in the country may have been exploited in sex trafficking, and foreign workers from South America, the Caribbean, and Asia may have been exploited in forced labor both in the country and while in transit. Cuban nationals working in St. Vincent and the Grenadines may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Foreign workers employed by small, foreign owned companies may be vulnerable to labor trafficking. Men, women, and children have been victims of forced labor, primarily in agriculture; government officials and civil society suspect drug traffickers exploit workers in forced labor in the production of marijuana. Outside experts continued to indicate adults may have exploited their children in sex trafficking to generate income while others purchased commercial sex from children.

U.S. Department of State

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