Antigua and Barbuda
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 and the Dominican Republic, as well as from southeast Asia, comprise the population most vulnerable to trafficking. Forced prostitution has been reported in bars, taverns, and brothels. Incidences of forced labor have occurred in domestic service and the retail sector. UNICEF has documented children engaging in transactional sex with older men for material goods throughout the Eastern Caribbean; third-party prostitution of children under 18 is a form of human trafficking.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Antigua and Barbuda is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. For a second year, the government did not remedy a flaw in its human trafficking law affecting which court has jurisdiction over trafficking cases. The government did not report any prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in human trafficking. Authorities only identified and referred to assistance one suspected trafficking victim.
Recommendations for Antigua and Barbuda:
Amend the anti-trafficking law to allow human trafficking offenses to be tried on indictment in the high court, which would have jurisdiction to impose the maximum sentences of imprisonment; vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in human trafficking; continue identifying and protecting trafficking victims by formalizing procedures for law enforcement, child welfare officials, and other front-line responders to identify victims and refer them to appropriate services; and continue efforts to raise awareness among child protection specialists about child sex trafficking, underscoring that all prostituted children—regardless of whether they were moved from one place to another—are trafficking victims.
The government made no discernible progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders. Antigua and Barbuda’s Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act 2010 prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment with fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law also includes extensive victim protection measures. The law is flawed in that it requires trafficking crimes to be tried in the lower court rather than the high court, and the lower court cannot legally impose sentences as severe as those provided for in the Act. Authorities investigated three suspected trafficking cases in 2013 compared with two in the previous reporting period. One person was arrested for allegedly maintaining a woman in domestic servitude, but the case did not progress to the prosecution stage during the reporting period. One prosecution from 2011 remained pending in 2013; the government did not report any new prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of trafficking offenders during the reporting period, and a nightclub previously shut down due to allegations of trafficking was operational again in 2013. Credible sources raised concerns of possible trafficking-related complicity by government officials and an apparent conflict of interest in the practice of some off-duty police officers providing security for sex trade establishments, an arrangement that would appear to inhibit law enforcement’s willingness to investigate allegations of human trafficking in the sex trade and victims’ willingness to report offenses. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses. The government provided in-kind support to IOM-led training workshops related to human trafficking for government officials.
The government made limited progress in the protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period, though the Gender Affairs Department continued to provide high quality assistance to victims. Law enforcement authorities identified one adult labor trafficking victim and no sex trafficking victims in 2013, compared to two suspected sex trafficking victims in 2012. The government did not have formal procedures to encourage and guide law enforcement, child welfare officials, and other front-line responders in identifying victims and referring them to available services. The Gender Affairs Department partnered with other government officials and NGOs to raise awareness about human trafficking indicators and available government services. In 2012, the government located a space for use as a shelter for trafficking and domestic violence victims, but did not open the shelter. Gender Affairs Department officials conducted a formal needs assessment for each potential victim of trafficking and offered job placement and various legal, health, lodging, psychological, communication, advocacy, and crisis services to the one victim identified during the reporting period. In a positive step, the government offered the one identified foreign victim long-term residency and integration into Antiguan society as a legal alternative to removal to a country where he or she might have faced retribution or hardship. The government also had policies in place to encourage trafficking victims to assist in the prosecution of trafficking offenders. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act 2010 protects identified victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their having been subjected to human trafficking.
The government sustained trafficking prevention efforts from the previous reporting period. It continued to operate a hotline with operators trained to identify and assist human trafficking victims; the hotline received 73 calls in 2013. The government reportedly had an anti-trafficking action plan, and authorities continued to distribute human trafficking public awareness materials and posters in English and Spanish that targeted victims as well as the general public. The Gender Affairs Department hosted community talks and distributed posters throughout Antigua and Barbuda to raise anti-trafficking awareness. The Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee included representatives from the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Directorate of Gender Affairs, the Labor Ministry, the Attorney General, the Police Commissioner, the Immigration Department, Customs, the Coast Guard, and two NGOs; it held meetings every six weeks. A separate anti-trafficking taskforce focusing on trafficking investigations and victim protection held meetings at least twice per month in 2013. The government did not report any initiatives aimed at reducing the demand for forced labor or commercial sex. The government and local NGOs reported no evidence that child sex tourism occurs in Antigua and Barbuda and reported no child sex tourism investigations.