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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 remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included increasing investigations, continuing prosecution of five traffickers, and cooperating with other governments and an international organization on law enforcement and victim screening.  The government also finalized and began to implement victim screening SOPs in cooperation with an international organization, created a new tool to combat financial crimes related to trafficking and other crimes, and collaborated with foreign governments to prevent trafficking of overseas Barbadian workers.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  The government did not initiate any new prosecutions and has never secured a trafficking conviction under the anti-trafficking law.  The government did not identify any trafficking victims.  The anti-trafficking law did not provide penalties that were commensurate with other serious crimes.

  • Proactively screen vulnerable groups including children; migrants, including non-Barbadians who engage in commercial sex; People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals on PRC government-funded projects; and Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators beyond points of entry and identify victims among these populations. 
  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms. 
  • 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. 
  • Fully investigate cases of missing non-Barbadians working in commercial sex who may be trafficking victims. 
  • Develop and implement written SOPs for victim identification and referral, regularly train frontline workers on their use, and improve coordination with NGOs for victim referral. 
  • Provide regular training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges on trafficking indicators, victim identification and referral, evidence-gathering, and implementing the anti-trafficking law. 
  • Fully implement the 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 raise awareness of human trafficking among officials and the public.

The government maintained prosecution efforts.  The Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act (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 seven investigations of 149 suspects – five cases of sex trafficking, one case of labor trafficking, and one case of an unspecified form of exploitation – compared with initiating investigations of 40 suspects in 2021 (25 for sex trafficking and 15 for labor trafficking) and two new investigations each in 2020 and 2019.  The government continued three investigations, two cases of sex trafficking and one case of labor trafficking, initiated in prior reporting periods.  The government did not report initiating any new prosecutions, compared with initiating prosecution of two Barbadian men for sex trafficking in 2021; the government had not reported initiating a prosecution prior to that since 2013.  The government and media reported the government continued prosecution of five suspected traffickers initiated in 2021 and 2013.  The government prosecuted the two traffickers from 2021 under the Sexual Offenses Act; the government did not prosecute the 2013 case under the TIPPA as it predated that legislation.  The government has never convicted a trafficker under the TIPPA, reflecting long lags between arrests and prosecutions across the justice system.  The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes.  The government continued to implement a 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, including sexual abuse.  However, observers noted BPS could not adequately investigate potential trafficking crimes or screen or identify potential victims among the PRC national population working on PRC-funded projects – or among mainly Muslim communities – due to limited ability to access these groups.  There were no courts solely dedicated to hearing trafficking cases; trafficking cases could be heard in one of the High Court’s eight criminal courts, up from five in the previous reporting period.  Serious criminal cases, including trafficking cases, required in-person jury trials unless the defendant pled guilty or the case involved no witnesses.  The government and outside observers reported pandemic delays in prior reporting periods continued to contribute to an already substantial court backlog, including in trafficking cases.  The government added courts and additional judges to improve the judicial process for all crimes, including the 2013 trafficking case.  The government reported the BPS, the DPP, and the courts had dedicated budgets, while the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit was funded through the BPS budget.  The government reported these entities had adequate financial resources; however, observers noted trafficking authorities lacked sufficient resources.  The government continued to report difficulties with evidence gathering, data collection, and analysis.  In a previous reporting period, BPS began to implement a digital case management system; implementation continued in the current reporting period.  The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit began to develop a database for investigative and victim data.  The Financial Intelligence Unit developed a typology of suspicious financial transactions for crimes including trafficking.  The government included human trafficking within introductory trainings for police and the Financial Intelligence Unit trained financial sector reporting entities on the suspicious financial crime typology.  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 participated in two regional law enforcement exercises that included intelligence-gathering and training and one operation with INTERPOL focused on trafficking indicators within migration flows to the island.  A foreign donor reported the government worked with it and INTERPOL on two ongoing investigations.

The government maintained efforts to protect victims.  The government did not identify any victims, including from the new trafficking investigations.  This compared with identifying one child sex trafficking victim in 2021; prior to 2021, the government had not identified a victim since 2016, when the government identified eight victims.  The government screened 126 potential victims in cooperation with international partners and INTERPOL, compared with screening 26 potential victims in 2021.  The BPS utilized an interview checklist to screen potential trafficking victims.  The Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit and the Immigration Department, in cooperation with an international organization, finalized and implemented updated victim screening SOPs drafted in the previous reporting period.  The government reported law enforcement screened for trafficking indicators when detaining or arresting individuals involved in commercial sex, migrants, or other vulnerable groups.

The government and NGOs continued to use an unwritten 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 during the reporting period.  The government designated the Bureau of Gender Affairs as the government coordinator for local NGO assistance to victims.

Under the TIPPA, all confirmed victims, including those with disabilities, had to be provided safe shelter, counseling, healthcare, and information regarding their rights.  The government had the capacity and financial resources to provide all services except housing, but reported no victims received these services during the reporting period.  There was no specialized shelter for trafficking victims.  The government provided funding to an NGO-operated domestic shelter accessible for the disabled that could house up to 35 women and their children; however, this shelter did not have specialized resources for trafficking victims and previously provided inadequate care.  The government reported the shelter could provide psychological, health, and educational services, including remedial English and math; assistance with resume writing, entrepreneur programs, and vocational training in arts and crafts; assistance obtaining medical, financial, housing, legal, employment, and additional education services; and provision of personal care supplies, clothing, and bus fares.  Authorities did not report any victims receiving these services during the reporting period.  Foreign victims and their dependents could also receive help to pay other living expenses and obtain documents.  The government had an 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 but did not report doing so during the reporting period.  The government reported accommodation, flights, and a monthly stipend to Cuban medical professionals were provided; observers noted there was limited information on the freedom of movement of the participants.

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 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.  NGOs reported the government had recently improved the police’s understanding of trafficking risks for vulnerable women.

The government slightly 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, in collaboration with an NGO, used social media to raise awareness.  The government did not report how often the Task Force met; in the previous reporting period, the Task Force met three times and the sub-committee on prevention met bi-weekly.  The government created a new sub-committee chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and Security to inform the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit and the National Task Force on trafficking trends; the sub-committee met for the first time in March 2023.  The government continued to implement activities in the 2021-2023 NAP.  In March 2021, the government allocated 125,000 BDS ($61,880) to implement the NAP for two years.  Observers noted the government continued to financially support citizens post-pandemic, which limited resources available for human trafficking activities.  The government continued a long-term awareness campaign through television, radio, social media, banners, and a roadshow in malls.  NGOs reported the government improved its awareness-raising.  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 an NGO each operated a hotline that could receive trafficking-related calls, but did not receive any such calls.

The Labor Department regulated recruitment agencies under the Recruiting of Workers Act; however, neither the law nor the government identified the agency responsible for enforcing the law.  The government did not prohibit recruitment fees.  There were no private sector labor recruiters or brokers operating in the country during the reporting period.  The government’s 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 also worked with Canadian government agencies to ensure good conditions for Barbadian overseas workers.  The government reported Barbadian overseas workers on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program whose contract period had not expired, who no longer had enough work, and where both original and receiving employer agreed, could change employers by informing the Liaison Office.  The Labor Department’s Safety and Health Officers could initially investigate potential forced labor crimes and refer any cases to the Sex Crimes and Trafficking Unit for further investigation.  The government reported the Labor Department initiated an investigation of a contracting subsidiary of a PRC state-owned investment holding company, which conducted construction work on behalf of a local parastatal agency.  The government promulgated 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 joined an international organization focusing on migration and trafficking.  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 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines are also 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, but observers report the numbers of Jamaican and Venezuelan women traveling to Barbados to engage in commercial sex have returned to pre-pandemic levels, partly due to pandemic-induced economic hardship.  NGOs report young foreign women go missing in disproportionately higher numbers and police do not investigate the disappearances as they frequently are not reported to the authorities; these situations may sometimes amount to human trafficking.  Approximately 300 PRC nationals worked on PRC-funded projects; PRC nationals may have been forced to work by the PRC.  During the reporting period, Barbados and Cuba signed a Health Cooperation Agreement for 70 Cuban doctors and more than 60 Cuban nurses to work in Barbados; Cuban medical workers also provided health services in response to the pandemic.  Cuban athletic coaches work in the country on private contracts.  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 the use of social media to recruit victims.  Media reported research from March 2021 suggested Barbadians are largely unaware about the extent of human trafficking in the country.  However, the government reported in 2021 there was a high level of public awareness of trafficking.  NGOs reported general discrimination against foreigners may have increased their vulnerability to trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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