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.