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The Government of Antigua and Barbuda 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 Antigua and Barbuda was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included investigating more trafficking cases, finalizing and implementing a new NAP, and updating victim identification and referral SOPs. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not initiate any prosecutions for the third consecutive year and has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not identify any confirmed victims for the third consecutive year. The use of SOPs for victim identification and referral remained inconsistent.

  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, convict traffickers, and seek appropriate penalties, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Continue to increase efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of at-risk populations, such as newly arrived migrants, individuals in commercial sex, and People’s Republic of China (PRC) national and Cuban workers on foreign government-affiliated programs.
  • Continue to reduce delays in court proceedings.
  • Consistently implement government-wide SOPs to proactively identify victims and refer them to care, and train front line officials in trafficking indicators and the difference between human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
  • Continue to provide trauma-informed training on trafficking for NGOs and service providers to improve their ability to care for potential trafficking victims.
  • Train police, prosecutors, and judicial officials on evidence collection and management for use in judicial proceedings.

The government maintained prosecution efforts. The 2010 Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government initiated investigation of 12 suspects in 10 cases during the reporting period, including four cases of sex trafficking, four of labor trafficking, one case involving both sex and labor trafficking, and one case of unspecified exploitation; this compared with five trafficking investigations during the previous reporting period, no investigations in 2020, and 10 in 2019. The government did not report initiating any prosecutions for the third consecutive year. Authorities continued prosecution of one alleged sex trafficker initiated in a previous reporting period. The government has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses; in past reporting periods, police officers allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes reportedly received administrative sanctions instead of being tried under the trafficking law. The Director of Public Prosecution prosecuted all trafficking cases during the reporting period; the High Court would hear all trafficking cases if they reached that stage. Courts continued to experience substantial backlogs following pandemic restrictions, which were lifted in 2022. Courts introduced judge-only trials for prosecutions, including those involving trafficking, in order to address court backlogs. Courts also introduced the option for virtual testimony from overseas for victim-witnesses; written testimony was also an available option, but the government did not report using either of these for trafficking cases during the reporting period. A foreign victim refused to cooperate in the prosecution of a suspected trafficker following repatriation.

The Trafficking in Persons Prevention Unit (TIP unit) was responsible for investigating trafficking cases and included four full-time staff. The TIP unit was the investigative arm of the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Committee (TPPC), which was the national coordinating body. Outside observers noted the country’s investigative capacity remained weak with limited capacity and difficulties bringing cases to prosecution. The government invited a foreign trafficking investigator to embed with the TIP unit and advise on investigative techniques, which resulted in an investigation into a possible international trafficking ring. The government participated in a regional operation funded by a foreign donor and participated in another operation funded by an international organization. The government trained police, justice sector officials, immigration officials, social service and health officials, customs officials, and labor officials on investigation and interview techniques, victim identification, and victim care.

The government maintained protection efforts. The TIP unit screened individuals in commercial sex for trafficking indicators and worked with the immigration department to improve screening of other at-risk populations, such as economic migrants, including individuals from West Africa; entertainers; and foreign workers, including those on foreign government-affiliated programs. The government had SOPs to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services officials in the screening and identification of potential victims, although observers noted widespread official and public lack of understanding of the difference between trafficking and migrant smuggling. The government did not use the SOPs consistently when screening for forced labor. The government updated the SOPs during the reporting period to include training and additional government agencies. The TIP unit was solely responsible for victim screening and identification but received referrals from other front-line authorities. The government identified 77 potential victims, most of whom were likely smuggled migrants. The government did not identify any potential victims in 2021 or 2020 and has not identified a confirmed victim since 2019. Authorities assigned victims a care officer from the Cases Task Force, chaired by a senior police officer. The government reported it provided services including legal assistance, personal care kits, counseling, and psycho-social support to all 77 potential victims. The government reported providing two of the potential victims with additional services, including housing, meals, transportation, immigration assistance, and purchase of an airline ticket for repatriation. NGOs also provided some services to the 77 potential victims. Government services for victims were adequate. The government did not have trafficking-specific shelters, but had safe spaces for adult and child trafficking victims. The safe spaces were operated and secured by law enforcement officers. Adult victims could choose among approved accommodations, could leave accommodations unchaperoned if authorities determined it was safe for them to do so, and could choose to decline any service including accommodation. The Family and Social Services Division could provide additional services to children; however, there were no child victims during the reporting period. There was no time limit to victim care services. The Directorate of Gender Affairs’ Support and Referral Center for victims of any form of GBV could also offer services and support to trafficking victims, including legal assistance and emergency accommodation.

The government could provide temporary residency status as an alternative to removal to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution by traffickers; this assistance was not contingent on assisting law enforcement. Victims could obtain a work permit or leave the country after the Cases Task Force approved a satisfactory risk assessment. In these cases, the government contacted an international organization and the relevant local trafficking unit in the country of origin for reintegration. The TIP unit reported it worked with an international organization to repatriate a potential trafficking victim to a neighboring country and provided support to reintegrate the victim in a new community. The government informed potential victims of their rights, including that their participation in investigations and prosecutions was voluntary. The government reported victims could speak to the Directorate of Gender Affairs, a social worker, or another appropriate third party, including NGOs, to report cases or access the judicial system in addition to or instead of law enforcement. The government had a policy of not disclosing a victim’s location, providing security at the victim’s location and in transit, allowing for testimony via video link, and not disclosing a victim’s identity to the public or media. The Directorate of Gender Affairs could also assist in helping victims obtain protection orders or advocate with relevant authorities to obtain assistance to help individuals in danger leave the country. However, the government did not report receiving requests for or using any of these methods during the reporting period. Due to a lack of understanding of victim identification procedures, authorities may have failed to identify some trafficking victims. The government trained NGOs and victim service providers on victim identification and victim care.

The government slightly increased prevention efforts. The solicitor general led the TPPC, which served as the national coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts. The TPPC consisted of government agencies and two NGOs and carried out enforcement, research, and victim advocacy functions. The TPPC oversaw the TIP Unit. The TPPC met several times during the reporting period. The government finalized and implemented a NAP for 2023, spending 220,718 Eastern Caribbean dollars (EC) ($81,747) on such activities and increased funding for the TIP unit despite the ongoing pandemic-related economic downturn. The government also increased funding for the TIP unit and provided the TPPC with dedicated funding. The TIP unit funded investigations out of its general budget. The government reported obtaining survivor feedback on policies indirectly through third parties who engaged survivors. The government published an annual report containing general information on trafficking and a summary of its anti-trafficking efforts as it had done in prior years.

The government increased public awareness activities – including some postponed due to the pandemic – through billboards, social media, radio, and television and at schools and church street fairs; outreach included LGBTQI+ and other at-risk groups. The government reported the pandemic continued to limit some other in-person public awareness events. The government provided awareness materials in English, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. The Directorate of Gender Affairs consulted with NGOs to avoid messaging containing stereotypes or racialized narratives. Outside observers noted the campaigns were effective. The government maintained a hotline for domestic abuse and GBV that could receive calls regarding trafficking, but reported receiving no such calls during the reporting period; the government could also receive anonymous calls through the crime stoppers number or via the TPPC’s social media page.

The government reported the only registered labor recruitment agency did not charge fees. The government implemented procedures for the issuance of work permits to foreign nationals. Foreign nationals could not enter the country until the Ministry of Labor (MOL) approved a work permit and could not start work before obtaining a permit; MOL interviewed all applicants for renewal permits. Workers did not need permission from their employers before switching jobs, apart from workers involved in programs arranged through a foreign government, who had the option to return home. The government reported the 1975 labor code set labor monitoring standards for foreign laborers and authorities monitored their work in accordance with the law. In 2023, the government conducted a rapid needs assessment of newly arrived migrants, mainly from Cameroon, in cooperation with two international organizations. To raise awareness among migrant laborers on the risks of trafficking, the government posted labor laws and regulations on government and other websites, posted signage at all ports of entry, and conducted awareness training for frontline workers (immigration, police, customs, and labor officers) on how to interview and communicate with migrant workers. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not report on efforts to prevent child sex tourism.

As reported over the past five years, traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Antigua and Barbuda, and traffickers exploit victims from Antigua and Barbuda abroad. Individuals from minority communities are at higher risk of trafficking. Documented and undocumented migrants from the Caribbean region have been identified as victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. Prior to the pandemic, traffickers exploited victims in multiple-destination trafficking, arriving in Antigua and Barbuda for a few months before their traffickers exploited them in other Caribbean countries such as St. Kitts and Nevis and Barbados. Intraregional air traffic stopped due to the pandemic in March 2020; the government reported fewer potential foreign victims may have arrived in the country as a result. Although travel from the United States and the United Kingdom resumed by the end of the reporting period, the government reported traffickers did not commonly exploit victims on these routes, and tourism activity remained depressed, apart from the cruise industry. Sex trafficking occurs in bars, taverns, and brothels, including with girls; while these establishments were largely closed during the pandemic, they gradually returned to regular operations. Forced labor, including of children, occurs in domestic service and the retail sector, particularly in family-owned businesses. Cubans working in Antigua and Barbuda may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. PRC nationals working in Antigua and Barbuda may have been forced to work on PRC-affiliated programs. In November 2022 and early 2023, inaugural flights from Nigeria arrived on a temporary charter service; some of the passengers from West Africa may be vulnerable to trafficking. The government suspended flights from Africa to review passenger vetting protocols and invited international organizations to advise on the government’s strategy to protect passengers newly vulnerable to trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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