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Barbados (Tier 2)

The Government of Barbados 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 with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Barbados was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included significantly increasing investigations; initiating two prosecutions and doing so for the first time since 2013; identifying a victim for the first time since 2016; improving victim screening, including by assessing whether authorities inappropriately incarcerated victims; making efforts to address complicity among police officers; and launching a public awareness campaign. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government has never secured a trafficking conviction under the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act (TIPPA). The anti-trafficking law did not provide penalties that were commensurate with other serious crimes. The government did not contribute to training for any officials.

  • Proactively screen vulnerable groups, including children, migrants, and Cuban workers, for trafficking indicators beyond points of entry and identify victims among these populations.
  • Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers with adequate sentences, including substantial imprisonment, and reduce court backlog for trafficking cases.
  • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking crimes.
  • Finish updating victim screening and referral standard operating procedures (SOPs), regularly train frontline workers on the SOPs, and improve coordination with NGOs for victim referral.
  • Provide regular 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
  • Fully implement the National Action Plan (NAP). • Provide trafficking victims, including potential victims, with adequate accommodations and access to trauma-informed service providers.
  • Update and modernize labor laws on recruitment and public procurement to prevent trafficking and protect victims.
  • Continue to increase awareness of human trafficking among the public.

The government increased 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 continued a process, begun in the previous reporting period 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 it initiated 40 investigations during the reporting period, 25 for sex trafficking and 15 for labor trafficking, and continued three investigations from previous reporting periods. This compared with two new investigations each in 2020 and 2019. The government initiated prosecution of two Barbadian men for suspected sex trafficking. The government had 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 closest trafficking cases pending prosecution predated the 2016 TIPPA by several years. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. In response to advocacy from civil society groups, the government implemented a new regulation that prohibited police officers from moonlighting as security officers in adult entertainment venues and bars to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest in the police’s role in deterring, detecting, and responding to trafficking and other crimes.

The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit of the Barbados Police Service (BPS) investigated all potential human trafficking cases, while the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was responsible for prosecuting trafficking cases. These entities had island-wide jurisdiction and their responsibilities extended beyond trafficking. There were no courts solely dedicated to hearing trafficking cases; any such cases could be heard in one of the five criminal courts. 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. By law, these jury trials could not take place remotely, and therefore authorities prosecuted few trafficking or other serious criminal cases during the reporting period due to the pandemic. The government reported this exacerbated an already substantial court backlog, including the 2013 case. The government reported the BPS, the DPP, and the courts had dedicated budgets, with the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit funded through the BPS budget. The government reported these entities had adequate financial resources during the reporting period. The government reported essential services, including the BPS, worked throughout the pandemic but reported authorities had to forego some operational aspects, including raids. The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit had fewer officers due to the pandemic. The government continued to report difficulties with evidence gathering, particularly data collection and analysis. The police began to replace paper-based records with a fully digitized case management system during the previous reporting period to comprehensively capture crime and violence data, including trafficking; the transition was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government included human trafficking within introductory trainings for police; the government did not otherwise fund or provide training. The government reported that if a sex tourism case was associated with human trafficking, the suspect could be tried for crimes committed abroad; but it did not report initiating any such prosecutions. The government cooperated with a foreign government on one investigation, which involved a popular social media site. The government cooperated with international partners in the investigation of two migrant smuggling operations that included potential trafficking crimes.

The government slightly increased efforts to protect victims. The government identified one child sex trafficking victim; the government had not identified a victim since 2016, when the government identified eight victims. The BPS utilized an interview checklist to screen potential trafficking victims. The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit and the Immigration Department worked with an international organization to update victim screening procedures; the project remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The BPS conducted regular surveillance of individuals in commercial sex for case intelligence and victim screening, although adult entertainment clubs were closed due to the pandemic. The government reported law enforcement screened for trafficking indicators when detaining or arresting individuals involved in commercial sex, migrants, or other vulnerable groups; however, the government reported there were few such opportunities due to the pandemic. The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit collaborated with the Drug Squad to screen individuals incarcerated for movement of illicit drugs for indicators of human trafficking. The government reported it did not receive any victim referrals from NGOs or civil society organizations. The government reported that Cuban medical professionals worked under a Cooperation Agreement between the two countries, for which the government provided support and funding.

Government authorities and NGOs used a formal process for victim care as required by law, 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.

The government reported it provided services to the victim identified, including a child psychologist and counseling, other medical care, and financial assistance for school and day-to-day expenses. Under the TIPPA, all victims, including those with disabilities, had to be provided safe shelter, counseling, healthcare, 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 reported no victims needed these services 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 trafficking victims and previously provided inadequate care. 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 allowed trafficking victims and witnesses to provide testimony virtually, including from other countries, but did not report using these measures. Prosecutors processed trafficking cases through a voluntary bill of indictment; victims provided evidence only one time to avoid re-traumatization. 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 would 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. Government policy permitted victims to leave the country and return for hearings, but the government did not report any such instances. The TIPPA allowed courts to order restitution from a trafficker after a conviction; however, no victims received restitution. Victims could request government assistance to receive compensation. The government, in collaboration with a foreign government, trained BPS officers on trafficking crimes and victim identification.

The government increased prevention efforts. The Attorney General headed the Task Force, which included representatives from nine government entities and a non-governmental professional women’s organization; the Task Force also worked with other government entities as needed. The Task Force and another NGO began to collaborate by having Task Force Public Service Announcements placed on the NGO’s social media platforms. The Task Force met three times during the reporting period, and the sub-committee on prevention met bi-weekly. The government allocated 125,000 BDS ($61,880) to implement the 2021-2023 NAP for two years. The government used the results of a study on the nature and extent of trafficking in the country to launch an English-language public awareness campaign in March 2022. The campaign encompassed public service announcements, social media messaging, free memorabilia containing anti-trafficking slogans, and banners in public areas to alert the public to human trafficking. The government consulted with an international organization to avoid harmful or stereotypical messaging and ensure quality control. The prevention sub-committee also prepared and launched a six-month school, discussion series, and social media platform development communications work plan. The pandemic continued to severely impact Barbados’ ability to implement other aspects of its NAP in 2021.

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. 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. There were no labor recruiters or brokers operating in the country during the reporting period. The Employment and Career Counseling Service offered services for workers recruited for employment overseas, including in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. 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. The government reported it drafted updated public procurement legislation to reflect current standards but did not finalize or release it during the reporting period. The government reported migrant workers could enter and leave the country at will if 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 operated a police hotline number that could receive information on potential trafficking crimes; authorities did not report receiving any trafficking information from the hotline. The professional women’s association on the Task Force and the NGO, with which the Task Force began to collaborate during the reporting period, each operated a hotline that could receive trafficking-related calls but did not receive any such calls. Authorities reported that all Barbadian 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. The government did not make efforts to reduce child sex tourism.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims 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 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are increasingly vulnerable. The government’s strict entry protocols due to the pandemic caused a significant reduction in the number of people from source countries entering Barbados in 2021. Cuban medical workers provided health services in response to the pandemic during the reporting period. Cuban athletic coaches work in the country. 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. Media reported research shared in March 2021 suggested that Barbadians are largely unaware about the extent of human trafficking in the country. However, the government reported its 2021 survey revealed a high level of public awareness regarding trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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