The government slightly increased efforts to protect victims. The government identified one Colombian adult female sex trafficking victim during the reporting period, compared with two victims in 2020 and five victims in 2019. Authorities implemented a formal protocol to guide front-line responders in identifying both sex and labor trafficking victims and referring them to services. The protocol had a detailed, victim-centered approach to the screening process, including the use of qualified interpreters of the same gender to assure reporting and comprehension of all communication. However, observers reported uneven application of the protocol, especially with vulnerable populations such as undocumented Haitian migrants and stateless children. In addition, due to a lack of training on the protocol, authorities may have detained some unidentified trafficking victims. The government reported it screened all migrants arriving by sea for trafficking indicators and screened migrants arriving by land as they came into contact with authorities. Immigration officers referred potential victims to the RBPF for further investigation. However, observers reported authorities did not use formal protocols to screen all migrants and continued to abuse migrants—particularly those of Haitian descent. Authorities reported screening individuals for trafficking indicators during routine checks of nightclubs. The government did not report screening Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators.
Authorities provided care including rent or accommodation, food, travel expenses, stipends, and school supplies and uniforms for four victims, including the adult Colombian female, one Bahamian female, and two Bahamian children. The government also repatriated the Colombian victim. The government’s spending on trafficking victims’ care and prevention activities apart from the pandemic was 48,462 Bahamian dollars ($48,462), compared with 41,351 Bahamian dollars ($41,351) in the previous reporting period. The government also provided 26,930 Bahamian dollars ($26,930) for rent and food assistance needs resulting specifically from the pandemic, compared with 47,651 Bahamian dollars ($47,651) for the provision of such care to four victims in the previous reporting period. The government had a formal process to guide officials in transferring victims to governmental or non-governmental options for short- or long-term care.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) oversaw the support for victims by service providers, attorneys, and law enforcement. The Department could also provide furniture, payment of utility bills, placement in school, medical care, psychological and psychiatric attention as needed, counseling, transportation, assistance with shopping, securing legal documents, resumé preparation, job placement assistance, facilitation of payment of stipends, and wiring of money abroad. The government provided legal aid to victims only for each victim’s trafficking case. Department of Health practitioners screened patients for trafficking indicators and could refer patients for further evaluation or care. The government typically provided most services for victims, but NGOs could also provide services to victims, including housing, food, meals and water, hygiene supplies, clothing, financial assistance, medical and psychiatric care, and a non-threatening, neutral environment for authorities to conduct interviews. Authorities placed referred child victims in a DSS childcare facility. The government did not have a dedicated shelter for trafficking victims; however, the government could provide accommodations to victims or refer them to an NGO for shelter. Authorities continued to place victims in NGO-managed shelters shared with domestic violence victims. The government considered victim preference when determining the appropriate shelter, and victims could choose not to reside in a shelter. The government did not report any cases of victims with disabilities; however, the national anti-trafficking budget included resources to make accommodations, if necessary. Shelters did not restrict the movements of victims, allowed them to leave for employment, and provided advisory services. The government provided services to victim-witnesses for the length of the trial and continued to provide services after completion of the trial until the victim was either resettled within the country or, if applicable, in the country of origin. Victims who chose to return to their country of origin also received continued financial support.
In the previous reporting period, a court awarded a Venezuelan victim 10,000 Bahamian dollars ($10,000) in compensation in a civil suit for the first time. The Task Force made multiple attempts during the reporting period to deliver the compensation payment to the Venezuelan victim in cooperation with a foreign embassy and an NGO from a different foreign country; the process was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Victim participation in trafficking investigations and prosecutions was voluntary, though encouraged. One child victim-witness participated in the investigation of a trafficker during the reporting period. The law granted victims immunity from prosecution. Courts closed trafficking trials and—as the law mandated non-disclosure of victims’ names, under penalty of prosecution—the media could not publish the identity of a victim. Bahamian law permitted victim testimony via live television links and for the reading of written statements into evidence, but this did not happen during the reporting period. Authorities advised victims of their rights with respect to the law, could appoint a designated caseworker to provide support for the victim, and could provide witness protection. The government prevented re-traumatization by limiting the scope of initial interviews and limiting contact with the trafficker. The government did not offer victims an alternative to speaking with law enforcement, such as social workers or NGOs. The government gave a police security detail for foreign victims moving to and from the airport and for victims moving to and from the designated shelter, including for court appearances, during which a police officer and a DSS representative stayed with the victim. The government encouraged victims returning from abroad for participation in a trial to bring a family member with them for additional support. The country lacked a visa classification for victims of crime, but foreign victims were entitled to the same assistance and services provided to Bahamian victims. Authorities did not tie benefits to foreign victims’ willingness to cooperate with law enforcement or to testify in court, and the outcomes of legal proceedings did not affect victims’ temporary immigration status. Foreign nationals had the option to remain in the jurisdiction with legal status or to return to their country of origin; the government reported it did not deport victims. Foreign victims who decided to stay in the country received assistance in obtaining legal residency for humanitarian purposes, which included a standardized certificate that resembled the asylum certificate but did not identify the holder as a trafficking victim and enabled the holder to work legally. However, foreign victims—particularly irregular migrants—may not have felt comfortable enough to report crimes to law enforcement officers who could identify them as victims. During the reporting period, there were no reported cases of Bahamians being exploited in trafficking abroad, and the Bahamian government did not identify any exploited nationals requiring funding for repatriation. The government trained DSS officials, tourism and hospitality staff, health care workers, and NGOs on victim identification and care and elements of trafficking.