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TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included finalizing and implementing new SOPs for victim referral and care, opening a government-funded and government-operated shelter for female child trafficking victims, providing the first government shelters for adult trafficking victims, and increasing the size of the Counter-Trafficking Unit (CTU). The government took steps to prevent trafficking among vulnerable populations, including migrant workers, Cuban medical workers, and Venezuelan refugees and migrants; it also initiated one new program to assist victim-witnesses by allowing remote testimony in trafficking cases. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity. Courts have never convicted a trafficker under the 2011 anti-trafficking law. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes, including at senior levels, remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. Victim identification, referral, and services remained weak and inconsistent, and interagency coordination was poor. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Trinidad and Tobago was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore Trinidad and Tobago remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.

  • Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers, including officials and staff allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase proactive victim identification, screening, and protection among vulnerable communities, including children in children’s homes and schools; and migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees, especially Venezuelans.
  • Reduce judicial backlog.
  • Ensure victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of trafficking.
  • Fully implement and train officials and NGOs on the use of new SOPs for victim care and referral.
  • Improve the quality of victim care and increase bilingual services.
  • Provide adequate funding and staff for robust trafficking investigations and victim services, including accommodations, and improve CTU responsiveness after hours.
  • Improve cooperation between the CTU, prosecutors, the judiciary, other agencies, and NGOs to increase the number of cases that proceed to trial.
  • Strengthen rules and regulations to ensure immigration enforcement does not hinder human trafficking detection, criminal law enforcement, or victim protections.
  • Strengthen oversight, regulation, and inspections of private labor recruitment agencies and domestic work locations, including by appointing a license officer.
  • Ensure NGOs are not penalized for violations of the Immigration Act for assisting foreign victims.
  • Investigate and prosecute domestic child trafficking as human trafficking and not as abuse or other crimes.
  • Train law enforcement and prosecutors in evidence collection for trafficking cases.

The government maintained prosecution efforts, but official complicity remained a significant concern. The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Act of 2011 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of no less than 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of no less than 500,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) ($73,910) for offenses involving an adult victim, and no less than 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of no less than 1 million TTD ($147,820) for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported it sought input from survivors and initiated recruitment of a foreign advisor with funding from a foreign government to review draft legislation begun in December 2020; the review remained pending at the end of the reporting period.

The CTU investigated 22 new cases under the TIP Act in 2022, including 20 cases of sex trafficking and two cases of labor trafficking, compared with 23 new trafficking cases in 2021 (nine for sex trafficking, five for labor trafficking, and nine for unspecified trafficking-related crimes). The government continued investigation of 26 cases (23 for sex trafficking and three for labor trafficking) from prior reporting periods. The government reported one labor trafficking case involved a male Venezuelan victim for the first time. The media also reported police arrested 12 men during a February 2022 law enforcement action. The government initiated prosecution of five suspected sex traffickers, including two police officers, compared with 15 suspected sex traffickers, including three police officers, in 2021 and two alleged sex traffickers in 2020. Of these, the government prosecuted four defendants under the TIP Act and one under other laws for indecent assault and sexual offenses. The government kept three suspects in detention with two others out on bail. In addition, the government reported it continued the prosecution of five sex traffickers begun in previous reporting periods. In December 2022, the media reported authorities also charged a teacher and security guard under the trafficking law for child sex trafficking of students. In March 2023, a magistrate judge dismissed sex trafficking charges against three Trinbagonian men and one Trinbagonian-Venezuelan dual national man. The judge found the police did not take sufficient steps to locate the alleged victim to have her testify against the accused traffickers after her initial statement to police, despite the law allowing a case where the victim’s whereabouts were unknown to move forward with a written statement alone. The government reported expediting four trafficking cases that cleared the preliminary inquiry process to the High Court, in addition to four cases from previous reporting periods awaiting the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to bring them to trial. The government did not report courts convicting any traffickers in 2022 or any traffickers since the enactment of the 2011 TIP Act.

Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. Two of the new investigations involved police officers; however, they remained in their positions without any administrative penalties while the investigations were ongoing. In February 2023, the Commissioner of Police ordered an investigation into senior government officials alleged in 2020 to be involved in trafficking. In March 2023, police opened another investigation into separate allegations made in 2023 against senior government officials. Authorities continued an investigation of two dozen police officers allegedly involved in trafficking begun in the previous reporting period. The government reported none of these police investigations moved to prosecution. Officials, oversight bodies, and outside observers consistently alleged law enforcement and security officials colluded with criminal groups complicit in trafficking. Victims alleged police, immigration, and customs officials frequented establishments where commercial sex was known to occur, from which they received money and sex in exchange for coordinating the transport of victims and providing protection for traffickers. In May 2022, media reports alleged immigration and defense officials at an immigration detention facility exploited detained Venezuelans in sex trafficking; observers also noted police generally did not interfere with organized commercial sex schemes involving this population. Previous reports alleged complicit Coast Guard officials facilitated the entry of women and girls from Venezuela – some of whom may have been trafficking victims – and complicit immigration and customs officers ensured the women and girls arrived and received entry. Reports also alleged police accepted bribes to facilitate transportation of potential trafficking victims and colluded with commercial sex establishments, casinos, and business owners with tipoffs or notifications preceding law enforcement actions. A civil society organization continued to report authorities rarely conducted law enforcement actions at some venues and suggested corrupt immigration officials and police officers profited from these venues. A study from the previous reporting period, funded by a foreign organization and conducted by a foreign company, reported 10 percent of the police force was under active investigation for misconduct, including trafficking. The police had an established procedure for receiving and investigating complaints against officers. Authorities reported anti-corruption statutes included sexual exploitation and trafficking as specified offenses from which forfeitures, confiscations, or money laundering charges could be generated. The government proposed an amendment to the Police Services Act in January 2021 that would allow additional disciplinary action, including polygraph testing and dismissal, for officers suspected to be involved in trafficking; the proposal was pending in Parliament at the end of the reporting period.

The CTU, a specialized anti-trafficking police unit within the Ministry of National Security, had the sole mandate for investigating trafficking cases. The CTU received assistance from the police’s Special Investigations Unit, Special Victims Unit, Cyber and Social Media Unit, and Financial Intelligence Branch; the Immigration Division; and the Coast Guard. The CTU had a dedicated budget with additional resources from the police and Ministry of National Security, and the government hired additional personnel for the unit and reassigned officials from other agencies to assist the CTU. Observers noted interagency information sharing, coordination, and relationships remained poor. Evidence collection for trafficking investigations remained a significant weakness; often police did not obtain sufficient evidence from victim-witnesses before their repatriation. The CTU also reported challenges in obtaining, preserving, and authenticating other evidence, such as cell phone or financial data. The CTU reported it was unable to follow up on all tips, requests, and referrals given its caseload. NGOs reported the CTU failed to act on some trafficking crime tips. The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) referred cases involving children to the CTU and the Child Protection Unit of the police for investigation; the CATT and the Ministry of National Security maintained an MOU that facilitated coordination on trafficking cases. The Child Protection Unit developed referral and management procedures for cases received from the CTU and the Immigration Division, which remained pending finalization at the end of the reporting period.

The CTU referred trafficking cases to the DPP and judiciary for hearings and trial. The DPP lacked adequate staff and resources for all cases, including trafficking. Observers noted authorities did not pursue prosecution if victim-witnesses would not testify against an alleged trafficker. Courts continued to have a backlog and often took five to 10 years to resolve cases, including trafficking cases, despite adopting justice system reforms in 2019. Prosecution delays included the possibility for multiple appeals and manipulation of plea bargains. A stakeholder reported current financial incentives based on services and court appearances favored adjournments, while numerous motions overwhelmed the judicial process. Magistrates courts with specialized trafficking divisions heard preliminary inquiries for trafficking cases, after which cases moved to jury trials in the High Court. Parliament passed legislation to remove the lengthy preliminary inquiry process and directed police to file charges in indictable proceedings directly at the High Court; however, this “fast track” provision remained pending enactment at the end of the reporting period. In January 2023, the chief justice directed the judiciary to consider human trafficking cases eligible for the fast track process once the legislation went into effect; courts did not expedite any trafficking cases during the reporting period under the new provision but expedited four cases in March 2023 under existing authority. The media reported observers welcomed the new fast track process but expressed concerns about its infrastructure, sustainable funding, prosecutorial staff levels, protection of victim-witnesses, trauma-informed training for judges, and the ability to monitor its effectiveness. Observers noted the judiciary’s broad discretion and inconsistency in granting bail, as well as reports of fraud and corruption within the bail process, engendered concomitant recidivism, victim traumatization, and a perception of impunity.

The CTU signed MOUs with the Ministry of Finance’s specialized Financial Intelligence Unit, the Ministry of Labor, and the Strategic Services Agency to collaborate, share information, and execute joint operations. One joint CTU-Ministry of Labor operation led to an investigation into potential labor exploitation. Authorities collaborated with Colombia, Venezuela, and an international organization (IO) on trafficking investigations. Law enforcement officials participated in regional sessions to share best practices. The government, in collaboration with IOs, provided anti-trafficking training to police, senior government officials, labor inspectors, members of the armed forces, and NGO representatives on a range of topics.

The government slightly increased limited protection efforts but identified significantly fewer victims. The CTU was the primary entity responsible for identifying victims. The government identified 38 trafficking victims, 36 exploited in sex trafficking with 31 of these identified during screenings of individuals in commercial sex, and two exploited in labor trafficking. Of the 36 sex trafficking victims, 20 were women and 16 were girls, including 14 Venezuelans and two Trinbagonians. The labor trafficking victims were a Venezuelan man and a Kenyan woman. This compares with identifying 80 trafficking victims in 2021 and six victims in 2020. During the reporting period, NGOs identified an additional five victims, including three foreign women and one foreign girl exploited in sex trafficking and one foreign man exploited in labor trafficking. In addition, the media reported authorities identified six Latin American women and two Latin American girls during a law enforcement action in September 2022, and authorities identified 37 adult victims and three child victims in February 2022 during a law enforcement action. Observers noted the government’s victim statistics were not reliable, and NGOs estimated there were, in fact, 500 victims, including those the government identified in the past two years. Experts noted staff at NGOs and shelters lacked training to identify victims. The government referred 11 sexual assault victims who demonstrated trafficking indicators to the CTU. The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services drafted the Manual on Victims of Trafficking for Social Service Providers, which contains guidelines for agencies involved in the protection of victims; the manual remained awaiting cabinet approval.

Authorities provided some assistance to the 36 victims they identified, compared with 54 victims assisted in 2021 and 70 potential victims assisted in 2020. The CTU had a dedicated budget for victim assistance, and the government reported spending a total of 105,000 TTD ($15,521) on victim assistance. The government reported spending 120,000 TTD ($17,738) on victim assistance in 2020. The Ministry of Health assisted foreign trafficking victims and funded the assistance from its annual budget. The CATT funded advocates for child victims from its general budget. Outside experts noted there was insufficient government funding and personnel for comprehensive victim care, including appropriate shelters with adequate staff and security personnel. In July 2022, the government developed, in coordination with an IO, and approved SOPs and a standardized form for victim referral to care and began their implementation. The SOPs contained a trauma-informed and victim-centered process for assessing and providing services to adult victims. The referral and assistance procedure for child trafficking victims followed similar steps as the adult process. The CTU also disseminated an updated bilingual pocket guide for front-line officers, which included the definition of trafficking and victim identification procedures, including contact information. The government reported adhering to pandemic health protocols, including providing victims with face masks for medical and dental visits and establishing quarantine areas for victims with COVID-19. Observers noted the CTU did not proactively act upon all referrals and did not conduct adequate screening of persons referred to them. An IO reported some victims requested assistance through local NGOs, private individuals, government agencies working with Venezuelan migrants, or IOs, which then referred the cases to the CTU. However, observers noted the CTU did not respond in a timely manner to victims referred by NGOs and IOs and provided services to victims in an ad hoc and inconsistent manner.

In March 2023, the government opened three new housing units to shelter up to 20 victims each; these were the government’s first trafficking-specific shelters for adults. Observers noted the government also relied on NGOs and IOs to provide shelter and psycho-social care for adult victims, and the media reported concerns about the quality of victim care and the length of time victims required care because of the lengthy judicial process. The government allowed victims to choose whether to stay in the state-provided accommodation or their own living arrangements. Authorities placed adult female victims in NGO-run shelters for GBV victims, funded by an IO; they placed adult male victims in safe houses operated by the security services. Victims did not have a choice of which shelter to use if they requested those accommodations. However, once in shelters, experts noted victims had strict rules restricting movement and communication, which caused some victims to run away from shelters or ask to be repatriated before authorities completed investigations. NGOs, in previous reporting periods, noted authorities did not provide adult victims the same level of care, access, and protection as child victims. Child victims did not have freedom of movement, and authorities placed them in children’s homes with CATT supervision; observers noted these homes could also house children who were criminal offenders. Foreign child victims without parents were placed in children’s homes without access to education. In December 2022, the government opened its first children’s home specifically for female child trafficking victims. The CTU and Children’s Authority signed an MOU to coordinate victim care procedures, including those of the new shelter. The Children’s Court directed the Children’s Authority to provide protection, placement, services, and repatriation for child victims. Authorities did not investigate or prosecute any individuals after multiple reports of abuse of children in children’s homes, including sex trafficking, sexual abuse, rape, and severe physical and psychological abuse resulting in children’s deaths, nor did Parliament approve recommendations for greater oversight of these institutions. The government, in collaboration with an IO and an NGO, continued to recruit and train foster caregivers specifically for foreign children, including child trafficking victims. Observers reported the government may have lacked adequate care for child victims.

The government allowed adult victims to pursue other employment, move about the country freely if staying outside a shelter, and, in some instances, to return to their home country. Authorities allowed nine trafficking victims to work after being registered in the new Migration Registration Framework. The government reported it improved the process to screen migrants for trafficking indicators; however, coordination between the Immigration Division and the CTU remained weak. According to NGOs in a prior reporting period, the Coast Guard and local authorities did not implement international best practices to screen detained refugees or asylum-seekers for trafficking indicators. Some observers indicated that after police or immigration actions, authorities detained some foreign potential victims for violating immigration laws without screening for trafficking indicators. Some potential trafficking victims who lodged complaints against immigration authorities subsequently faced immigration charges, resulting in deportation proceedings. The government reported it signed a technical cooperation agreement with the Government of Cuba in 2018 to guide the recruitment and employment of Cuban medical workers in the country. The government reported that under the agreement, it directly interviewed and chose the workers, provided employment on a contractual basis under terms and conditions of the chief personnel officer, and paid salaries commensurate with those of Trinbagonian counterparts directly into the medical professionals’ own local bank accounts, along with granting the employees vacation time, sick leave, paid local and Cuban holidays, overtime, housing, transportation, and meals.

The anti-trafficking law provided for restitution in trafficking cases that resulted in convictions, but there were none during the reporting period. However, the government prepared a program under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which did not go into effect by the end of the reporting period, to provide victims additional compensation from the government prior to conviction of a trafficker; victims’ identities would be kept anonymous. The government reported it did not limit or condition services on victim participation in the prosecution of the trafficker but reported victims who cooperated with an investigation or prosecution received transportation to appointments and meals; observers noted these services were not consistent. Courts allowed remote testimony; one victim testified overseas during the reporting period. Foreign adult victims could remain in the country for the duration of court proceedings and work legally; they could apply for permanent residency after the completion of court proceedings, but the government did not report any did so. The government operated a formal witness protection program for all crimes but did not report any trafficking victims participating in it; observers reported no trafficking victims had ever participated in it and that the government did not adequately protect victim-witnesses. The government did not maintain victim confidentiality during trials. NGOs alleged authorities deported victims who declined to cooperate in prosecutions. NGOs also reported they were reluctant to provide shelter or services to undocumented foreign victims who were not officially referred by the government because of possible government retaliation against the NGO under the Immigration Act. Courts could rely on remote testimony, but many foreign victims refused to cooperate with prosecutions after repatriation. Several victims, particularly adult victims, requested repatriation to their country of origin because of inadequate victim services and official complicity in trafficking. The CTU repatriated 22 sex trafficking victims and one labor trafficking victim, compared with nine victims to Venezuela in 2021. NGOs asserted the government may have violated individuals’ due process during repatriation, and the Venezuelan embassy’s increased involvement in the repatriation process put individuals at risk if they had a legitimate fear of persecution.

Foreign victims often could not return to their countries of origin because they did not possess valid identification or travel documents; in many cases traffickers held their original documents. The government offered some immigration relief for potential victims. In one case, a minister’s permit was granted to a child victim and her mother, and the government reported granting minister’s permits to other close relatives of victims to provide additional support. The government reported it would allow trafficking victims with minister’s permits to participate in educational and vocational opportunities.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons, which included 10 agencies and six NGOs, coordinated national efforts. The government passed a NAP for 2021-2025 in October 2022. The NAP increased funding for victim assistance and public awareness and directed the CTU to provide ongoing training for police officers, states’ attorneys, and magistracy and judiciary officers in cooperation with IOs. The task force led implementation of the NAP. The government sought the input of survivors in its policies. The government reported the task force and its committees, including the Strategic Working Committee, met regularly; other observers reported these entities did not exist or were not functional. The CTU prepared quarterly and annual reports, but these were not made available to the public. The government did not provide its overall budget allocations for trafficking for 2022 and has not done so since 2017. However, the government reported spending 50,000 TTD ($7,391) on public awareness and engagement efforts during the reporting period, in addition to 105,000 TTD ($15,521) on victim assistance. The government funded implementation of victim assistance and public awareness activities within the NAP. In addition, the government funded CTU operations with the option to obtain additional personnel from other agencies within the ministry.

The CTU operated a 24/7 English-language trafficking hotline, through which it reported receiving 47 calls, identifying and referring an unspecified number of victims to care and launching one criminal investigation, compared with identifying three victims, referring three individuals for care, and launching four criminal investigations in 2021. The police also had a Spanish-language version of its mobile phone application to report crimes. The government publicized the hotline, but an IO reported it was not widely used. Observers noted a need for more Spanish-speaking hotline operators. NGOs and victims reported difficulty reaching the CTU after hours despite the hotline, and, thus, victims would often contact NGOs directly. The CTU had a weekly radio program and news column on trafficking; in one instance, the radio program featured a survivor sharing her experience. In June 2022, the CTU partnered with a foreign donor to raise awareness through the Blue Campaign for police, along with lawyers and airport, hotel, and tourism employees. The government conducted extensive online and in-person trafficking awareness in English and Spanish on multiple topics for the general public and some targeted populations. The government also highlighted training available to the public through the CTU’s and Ministry of National Security’s social media pages.

The Employment Exchange Act prohibited recruitment fees. Labor recruiters required a license to operate; the licensing officer could accept as equivalent a license issued by the competent authority of a foreign country. However, the government had never appointed a licensing officer, and the Ministry of Labor did not report how many recruiters authorities had licensed under the act. Forced labor cases could be referred to the labor inspectorate for investigation, but the government did not report referring any cases. The labor inspectorate met with employers about paying employees unpaid wages. The Ministry of Labor increased inspections of businesses. The law did not differentiate between citizens and foreign employees. The law covered domestic workers, but observers noted the oversight and regulation of domestic workers’ employment remained weak. The government reported migrants could easily change jobs within the same employment sector; a migrant had to apply to the Ministry of Labor to change to another employment sector. The Ministry of Labor did not finalize a labor migration policy, begun in 2019, including measures to mitigate trafficking. The government trained labor inspectors to use trafficking screening forms. Observers noted that while the Ministry of Labor remained willing to intervene on behalf of trafficking victims and act against unscrupulous employers who engaged in trafficking, the lack of legal standing of the country’s refugee and migrant population created a problematic array of informal markets, including labor, housing, health, financial, social services, and illicit smuggling, over which the government had little to no visibility or control. The government established the Migration Registration Framework, which registered more than 15,000 undocumented migrants and allowed them to work. Refugee children could not access public education, heightening their risk for trafficking. Observers noted the lack of legal standing for those who illicitly entered the country seeking refuge or asylum heightened their vulnerability to trafficking. The government reported detained migrants, or any individual or organization on their behalf, could post a security bond equal to the cost of deportation, but observers reported abuse, extortion, and exploitation in the application of this process and noted it increased victims’ dependency on traffickers. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including producing online videos and giving presentations to male college students. The government reported its laws allowed for the prosecution of suspected sex tourists for crimes committed abroad, and it had draft legislation to strengthen the registration and reporting of sexual offenders; the legislation remained pending at the end of the reporting period.

As reported over the past five years, traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Trinidad and Tobago, and traffickers exploit victims from Trinidad and Tobago abroad. Trinidad and Tobago also serves as a transit point for vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants traveling to Europe, North Africa, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in neighboring Venezuela and the economic effects of the pandemic contributed to a large influx of refugees and migrants who are at a high risk for trafficking. A November 2022 study by an IO found sex trafficking is the most prevalent form of trafficking in the country. Sex trafficking victims are women and girls primarily from Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Guyana; however, the government reported an increase in male Venezuelan labor trafficking victims and domestic child sex trafficking victims. Unaccompanied or separated Venezuelan children are at increased risk for sex trafficking. In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago imposed a visa requirement for Venezuelans. Some Trinbagonian artisanal fishermen turn to migrant smuggling, which serves as traffickers’ primary method of transportation of victims from Venezuela. Venezuelan stakeholders note migrant smugglers charge $300 to $500 for transportation. The Minister of National Security stated in May 2022 that 132 known disembarkation points existed along the country’s coasts. Many victims land in the southern peninsula of Trinidad and contract taxi vans to ferry them inland to holding locations and trafficking establishments such as bars, hotels, parlors, and clubs. Other victims enter the country via Trinidad’s international airport. Although Trinidad remains the primary hub for most sexual exploitation, traffickers move some victims to Tobago during the tourist season. Trinidad and Tobago closed its borders because of the pandemic from March 2020 to July 2021, but an IO reported Venezuelans continued to arrive in large numbers on a daily basis. An IO reported more than 21,000 foreigners – 86 percent Venezuelan and 6 percent Cuban – were registered with the IO for asylum or refugee status during the previous reporting period. Observers note authorities and the public pay a disproportionate level of attention to sex trafficking among migrants and refugees as opposed to other potential and actual victims and that high-level officials lack an understanding of trafficking. An IO found increased risks for those working in the construction sector in 2023. Civil society and children’s groups reported in 2023 that exploitation in sex trafficking of Trinbagonians in schools and children’s homes went largely unreported and labor trafficking increased in the informal work sector. A CTU investigator reported an increase of reported domestic cases that signaled a positive shift towards greater public awareness and official recognition of commercial sex cases in schools or children’s homes as trafficking; however, observers noted most domestic trafficking cases involving children are persistently characterized by the media, in official reports, and by government officials as “abuse” rather than trafficking. Traffickers also exploit individuals from Puerto Rico, the Philippines, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, Nepal, Kenya, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. LGBTQI+ persons are at risk for sex trafficking. Migrants from the Caribbean region and from Asia, in particular those lacking legal status, are at risk for forced labor in domestic service and the retail sector. The government reported traffickers exploited Indians and PRC nationals in domestic servitude, such as cooks and laborers, in restaurants and other businesses owned by Indians and PRC nationals. In July 2021, 30 Cuban medical professionals followed a May 2020 group of 12 Cuban medical professionals to the country to assist with pandemic response efforts. Cuban medical professionals may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Corruption among police and immigration officers has been associated with facilitating labor and sex trafficking. Observers report law enforcement and security officials are complicit in trafficking, including Coast Guard officials who facilitate the transportation of women and girls from Venezuela to the country; immigration and customs officers who ensure women and girls arrive and receive entry; and members of the police who accept bribes to facilitate transport to houses across the country and work with brothel owners to protect their establishments from law enforcement actions, particularly in the southern police districts where most Venezuelan refugees, migrants, and displaced persons attempt to enter the country. Transnational organized crime with a link to megabandas – large criminal gangs with more than 50 members who are part of transnational organized crime networks in Latin America – may increasingly be involved in trafficking. Regional experts note transnational crime organizations operating in Trinidad also use the island as a transit point for exploiting trafficking victims throughout the Caribbean. Traffickers offer employment in brothels and clubs, via social media – which increased as a result of the pandemic – along with advertisements in Venezuelan newspapers and recruitment by other victims. NGOs reported some victims from a December 2021 law enforcement action had been forced to recruit other victims. In November 2022, the media reported a study by an IO found social media was the main method traffickers used to recruit victims. After the country closed its borders in March 2020 because of the pandemic, recruitment shifted to online platforms, trafficking moved from brothels, spas, salons, and bars to private, clandestine locations; after the government lifted pandemic restrictions in April 2022, traffickers returned to exploitation in brothels, hotels, spas, salons, and bars. However, victims report traffickers exploit younger victims in riskier, but more lucrative, transactions through social media. Some trafficking networks operate through businesses acting as a cover for trafficking operations. Traffickers often offer to either pay for or share the cost of transit with the victims, which is later included as part of debt bondage imposed upon them. Victims stated being told upon arrival in the country that they had been “purchased” and owed a debt of 20,000 TTD ($3,030). Some victims who escape report Venezuelan enforcers threaten their family members in Venezuela to coerce them into returning. One victim reported traffickers also use drugs and alcohol to increase compliance and dependency of victims. NGOs report Trinidad and Tobago is a sex tourism destination. Most sex tourists travel from the United States, Canada, China, and Western Europe.

U.S. Department of State

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