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 investigations and increased training for frontline health workers attending to newly vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as additional awareness raising efforts among this population. 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. Victim identification and services remained weak, and government agencies cited a lack of resources for anti-trafficking efforts.
Vigorously prosecute and enable successful convictions of traffickers and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms.
Increase investigations of suspected sex and labor trafficking cases, particularly cases involving children.
Amend the trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking.
Increase government funding and resources across all relevant agencies to combat trafficking.
Improve the quality and specialization of victim services.
Consistently screen both domestic and foreign at-risk populations, including internally displaced persons, economically disadvantaged children, and Cuban medical workers, for trafficking indicators and refer victims to care.
Increase 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.
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.
The government maintained minimal 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 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU) investigated three trafficking cases in 2021: one case of sex trafficking, one case of labor trafficking, and one unspecified. This compared with investigating one case of labor trafficking in 2020, five suspected cases in 2019, and four cases in 2018. 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 government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
The lack of prosecutions and convictions and 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 that 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 previous reporting period, the ATIPU had to request vehicles on an ad hoc basis from the police force’s general motor pool; the government reported it successfully sought foreign donations during the reporting period to expand motor pool resources. The government reported the pandemic and other emergencies, including a volcanic eruption and a hurricane, severely impeded law enforcement efforts, especially in the northeast and northwest parts of the multi-island country. The government partially suspended court proceedings for four months due to the pandemic and other emergencies, eventually resuming virtually.
The ATIPU conducted surveillance at the airport and seaports of entry, marinas, bars, nightclubs, entertainment spots, restaurants, beaches, and social events to identify possible trafficking crimes. The government reported a lack of awareness about human trafficking impeded the public from reporting suspected trafficking crimes and cooperating on trafficking investigations. The ATIPU funded and conducted specialized anti-trafficking training for police recruits. The ATIPU cooperated with the government of a neighboring country on a trafficking case in that country that included a Vincentian victim.
The government maintained minimal victim protection efforts. Authorities screened potential victims but did not formally identify any victims during the reporting period, compared with screening eight potential trafficking victims in 2020; the government last identified a victim in 2019. The government reported it disseminated a formal screening and referral procedure for potential trafficking victims, in which the immigration and labor departments, or NGOs, had responsibility to identify potential victims and refer them to the ATIPU for interviews and formal identification.
If it formally identified victims, the ATIPU could refer them to a crisis center the government funded and operated in collaboration with NGOs for victims of domestic violence and trafficking; the center offered shelter, social care, and medical, psychological, and financial assistance. The government reported adult victims had the option to leave the shelter at will. Some observers in previous reporting periods noted the government’s victim referral process 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. During the reporting period, the government provided funding to the Ministry of National Security, which oversaw the ATIPU, but did not report the specific amount provided for trafficking victim services, as it was allocated through existing budgets of different ministries. The government reported victims could speak to social services or an NGO that completed ATIPU anti-trafficking training, instead of law enforcement prior to deciding whether to file a police report. Provisions in the anti-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 trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government reported no cases of victims being detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit.
The anti-trafficking act provided foreign victims with the possibility of temporary and permanent residence permits and protected victims from immediate deportation; authorities did not link victim benefits to cooperation with law enforcement. Authorities did not grant temporary or permanent residency to any victims during the reporting period. The government allowed foreign victims who remained in the country to work but did not make use of this provision during the reporting period. The government reported it screened all individuals before deportation; outside observers noted the country’s border controls included an exit interview with an immigration officer. The government did not report any cases where the courts ordered restitution paid to trafficking victims; it also did not report any situations where victims required government assistance with repatriation. Authorities did not report specifically screening Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators beyond general entry and exit screening or implementing measures to ensure workers kept their wages apart from general monitoring of foreign workers. The government trained frontline health workers and volunteers. Observers noted the tailored training regime focused primarily on teaching frontline healthcare and social workers how to identify and care for newly vulnerable potential victims among those internally displaced by the volcanic eruption.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The national task force, led by the prime minister, coordinated the anti-trafficking efforts of its members, including government agencies and an NGO. The government did not report how often the national task force met during the reporting period. The government reported continuing to provide financial, material, technical, and human resources for the country’s anti-trafficking National Action Plan (NAP) for the period 2021-2025 but did not report if its budget was sufficient. The government reported the pandemic did not prevent members of the national task force from continuing to implement the NAP.
The ATIPU operated three 24-hour English-speaking hotlines, including a dedicated trafficking hotline, an emergency number, and a police operator, and monitored an email address for reporting suspected trafficking cases; authorities reported they initiated criminal investigations from calls to the hotlines in the reporting period but did not report whether the investigations were of trafficking crimes. In comparison, authorities identified eight potential victims via the hotline in 2020 and no actions in 2019. The government submitted an Annual Trafficking in Persons Report to the Parliament, which the government reported providing the opportunity for national debate and public education on the contents of the document and government’s overall anti-trafficking policies. Although the document was not made public, observers noted citizens may have been able to request the document in person. The government distributed anti-trafficking brochures to newly vulnerable evacuees placed in shelters during the volcanic eruption. The government raised awareness via a country-side radio program. 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 anti-trafficking banners in the arrivals and departures areas of the international airport. The prime minister explicitly warned citizens to be aware of potential trafficking cases in extensive media commentary in February 2022. Observers reported the task force raised awareness of trafficking in schools, religious organizations, and businesses. The government reported training its diplomats; 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 periodic inspections of an unspecified number in 2021, compared with 37 inspections in 2020 and 42 inspections in 2019. The 1940 Recruiting of Workers Act remained in force and banned recruitment fees; observers noted the government regulated overseas labor programs for its citizens by serving as an intermediary. The government reported having bilateral agreements with several countries regarding oversees recruitment and employment and using resources in its embassies overseas to ensure that its citizens did not become victims of trafficking. The government did not train labor inspectors specifically on child labor, although the government reported labor inspectors screened for indicators of child labor and trafficking and police received 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. The government invited Cuban medical workers in the country to assist in the pandemic healthcare response in the previous reporting period and signed a bilateral agreement with Cuba governing the work and living arrangements for the medical professionals. The government reported in the previous reporting period that the Cuban medical workers retained their passports. 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. In previous reporting periods, outside experts indicated that adults might have exploited their children in sex trafficking to generate income, while others purchased commercial sex from children. In April 2021, the La Soufriere volcanic eruption and a subsequent hurricane destroyed a third of the country’s arable land; made almost all arable land inaccessible, leading to massive crop failure and cutting off the main source of revenue and employment; and internally displaced a sixth of its population, making this group newly vulnerable to trafficking. International air travel in the Eastern Caribbean, the main mode of transportation in pre-pandemic reporting periods for foreign trafficking victims in the region, collapsed during the pandemic. While air travel resumed in a limited way during the reporting period, the main routes were to the United States, not a traditional source market for trafficking victims in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.