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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

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ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: Tier 2

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Antigua and Barbuda was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by conducting more investigations and improving victim identification, conducting its first trafficking raid, establishing a new trafficking unit to coordinate and expedite efforts across the government, tripling its budget for combating trafficking, creating new agreements with government agencies to improve coordination and victim protection, and developing a new trafficking database to better track cases. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government’s trafficking law, by allowing a fine in lieu of imprisonment, had penalties that were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. To date, the government has failed to convict a trafficker and a ruling is still pending on penalties for complicit police officers in a 2015 case.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

Vigorously investigate and prosecute cases of sex trafficking and forced labor and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials; increase efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations, such as migrants and individuals in commercial sex; develop a national action for the period beyond 2018; provide continued funding across all agencies to increase efforts to combat human trafficking; implement joint and agency-specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all government agencies and NGOs on victim referral; amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment; develop formal agreements with international organizations and countries to share information and conduct joint investigations on human trafficking cases; publish reports on government anti-trafficking efforts; and increase efforts across the country to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor.

PROSECUTION

The government increased prosecution efforts. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act, 2010 criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment, fines up to 400,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($148,150), or both. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. By allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking, these penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities investigated eight cases of potential trafficking, compared to three in 2016; four of eight investigations remained active at the end of the reporting period, as police determined the other four did not constitute trafficking. The remaining four cases were pending prosecution. In one of the four cases, the police, in a joint operation with several other government agencies, conducted a raid on two nightclubs in February 2018, the first trafficking raid in the country. The police took four suspects into custody; three were subsequently released and one was charged with four counts of human trafficking involving six confirmed Jamaican adult female victims. A prosecution of a December 2015 case involving two alleged perpetrators was pending a trial date in 2018. The government has never reported any trafficking convictions. Authorities commented police investigators and prosecutors were overburdened and operated with limited resources.

Police and Immigration signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this year to provide a formal mechanism for coordination on investigating trafficking cases; one of the four trafficking cases in 2017 originated from this MOU. The police worked with Interpol and police from victims’ countries, including Jamaica. However, the government lacked formal agreements or joint investigations with these organizations and countries. Twenty-four police, prosecutors, and judicial personnel received training from an international organization on victim-centered investigations and prosecutions.

The government did not report any new investigations of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The police standards committee continued to review, for disciplinary action, the 2015 case of three police officers suspected of indirect involvement in trafficking crimes; a hearing was expected in 2018. Over the past three years, the police force chose administrative sanctions for officers suspected or implicated in trafficking, rather than charging them with a crime under the country’s trafficking laws.

PROTECTION

The government increased protection efforts. The government identified nine victims—eight adult female sex trafficking victims (two from Guyana and six from Jamaica) and one minor Antigua and Barbadian female victim; this compared to four victims in 2016. Although the government did not have formal SOPs for victim referral, it developed and implemented a new referral chart that all relevant agencies used for victim referral. The government referred the eight identified victims to care services and assisted with one repatriation. During the reporting period, the government signed an MOU with the gender affairs department to provide for the immediate needs of victims. The gender affairs department, which worked with its network of providers, was responsible for providing care to the victims and obtained in-kind contributions for victim care donated from businesses. The government opened a crisis center for trafficking victims and other victims of gender-based violence. The government provided long-term shelter through an informal network organized by the Ministry of Public Safety.

All victims identified during the reporting period cooperated with law enforcement investigations. The government could provide temporary residency status for foreign victims who desired to stay in the country; this assistance was not contingent on assisting law enforcement. The government allowed testimony via video, although the director of public prosecutions had not used this method in court to date. Per the anti-trafficking law, a victim can file a civil suit for restitution from a government official complicit in trafficking; however, the government reported no civil suits during the reporting period. The government conducted victim identification training for 30 persons including labor and immigration officers and the media.

PREVENTION

The government increased prevention efforts. According to the Ministry of National Security, the 2017 budget for anti-trafficking efforts was 330,430 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($122,380), compared to 109,410 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($40,520) in 2016 and 66,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($24,440) in 2015. In addition, social services for victims came out of the violence against women budget of the gender affairs department. The Ministry of National Security also relied on in-kind donations from businesses for print material and public service announcements. All government agencies, however, cited lack of finances as a key deficiency in increasing anti-trafficking efforts. Barbuda, the smaller sister island to Antigua, was decimated by the passage of Hurricane Irma in September, which placed a strain on already limited government resources.

The Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee (TPPC), the coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts, was chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Security and Labor. The TPPC, which included representatives from various government agencies and one NGO, continued to oversee implementation of the 2016-2018 national action plan. The government established a new working-level anti-trafficking unit within the Ministry of National Security, which comprised a victim care and support officer, an administrative assistant, an accounts officer, a communications officer, and a filing clerk. Authorities noted the unit improved coordination and efficiency of response efforts to trafficking.

The government increased awareness activities by producing two public service announcements and placing several billboards across the country. In September 2017, the government conducted a week of prevention activities in collaboration with NGOs and media outlets. The government also designed and presented plays at five schools. The gender affairs department included trafficking awareness training in its gender-based violence awareness sessions in ten communities, as well as in a special training session for government workers.

The government had not published its 2017 annual report on anti-trafficking efforts by the close of the reporting period. The government created and implemented a new database, managed by the anti-trafficking unit, to better track trafficking-related data across the government; participating authorities noted this database improved coordination and documentation. The government also conducted anti-trafficking training with labor inspectors, labor unions, and TPPC members. The government operated a gender-based violence hotline that could handle the reporting of trafficking and assisting victims. Through its public awareness campaigns across Antigua, the government made modest efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Antigua and Barbuda is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Legal and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean region, notably from Jamaica, Guyana, and the Dominican Republic are most vulnerable to trafficking. Authorities reported an increased number of trafficking victims engaged in multiple-destination trafficking, arriving in Antigua and Barbuda for a few months before moving on to other Caribbean countries such as St. Kitts and Nevis and Barbados. Sex trafficking has been reported in bars, taverns, and brothels. There are anecdotal reports of children subjected to sex trafficking, including by parents and caregivers. Forced labor occurs in domestic service and the retail sector. There have been concerns about trafficking-related complicity by police officers.

U.S. Department of State

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