St. Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. NGOs and local government officials report that some adults pressure children under the age of 18 to provide sex acts to men in exchange for money or gifts; third-party prostitution of children under 18 is a form of human trafficking. Local officials and NGOs have also raised concerns regarding foreign women engaged in prostitution or foreign workers subjected to forced labor in or transiting through the country; foreign workers employed by small, foreign-owned companies have been identified as particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Men, women, and children remain vulnerable to forced labor in the country, primarily in the agriculture sector.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government conducted three trafficking investigations during the year and increased its anti-trafficking awareness efforts in schools. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. It did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders. The government neither demonstrated proactive victim identification efforts nor identified or referred any trafficking victims for care. This is a decline from the previous year when it identified five potential trafficking victims.
Recommendations for St. Vincent and the Grenadines:
Proactively identify and refer any suspected victims of trafficking to appropriate care and services; promote a victim-centered approach to victim identification by involving NGOs or other victim advocate officials in the identification process; develop and disseminate a government-wide referral process for various types of suspected trafficking victims (child, adult, male, female, national, non-national); prosecute and convict human trafficking offenders; take additional steps to ensure potential trafficking victims are taken to a safe location while conducting victim identification interviews, as victims often first appear as immigration or prostitution-related violators and are reluctant to disclose details of their exploitation; and identify a social worker or NGO who can coordinate assistance, serve as the victim’s advocate, and liaise with law enforcement.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines demonstrated minimal law enforcement efforts against human trafficking. The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Bill of 2011 prohibits forced prostitution and forced labor, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of up to 20 years’ imprisonment with fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not report it prosecuted or convicted any trafficking offenders in 2013. During the reporting period, the special police unit focusing on human trafficking, sexual offenses, and domestic violence initiated three human trafficking investigations, compared with four investigations in 2012. It did not initiate any prosecutions of trafficking offenders in 2013. The government did not report any convictions of trafficking offenders or government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses in 2013, 2012, or 2011. During the reporting period, the government’s ministerial-level national taskforce conducted training on victim identification for all new police officers and incorporated a trafficking section into its officer’s training manual. The government provided in-kind assistance to IOM-led anti-trafficking training for officials and local NGOs.
The government did not demonstrate progress in victim identification or the provision of protective services during the reporting period. It did not identify or refer any potential trafficking victims for care in 2013. This represents a decline from the previous reporting period when it proactively identified five potential victims.
During the reporting period, the government officially implemented the use of screening forms developed the previous year to guide officials in identifying trafficking victims. However, it has not yet completed guidelines on the referral of victims to appropriate shelter and services initiated in 2012. In addition, the government did not fund any trafficking-specific assistance programs, though it continued to fund a short-term domestic violence shelter that could also accommodate adult women, men, and child trafficking victims. As the government did not identify any trafficking victims in 2013, no trafficking victims assisted law enforcement during the reporting period.
The government’s anti-trafficking law contains incentives to encourage victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking offenders, including temporary and permanent residency permits. The anti-trafficking law thus provides alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution, though during the reporting period, no foreign victims received such immigration relief. The trafficking law also protects victims from punishment for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked, and there were no reports that victims were inappropriately punished during the reporting period.
The government made limited progress in preventing human trafficking during the reporting period. While working level officials continued to acknowledge a trafficking problem in the country, public comments by high-level officials that the problem does not exist diminished the impact of trafficking awareness campaigns. The police continued to operate a hotline for reporting human trafficking cases; the police reported that the hotline received several calls during the year. The police increased their trafficking sensitization efforts in schools by training 8,584 students and 571 teachers, a significant increase from outreach efforts the previous year. The police also provided trafficking awareness training to staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education, and other governmental entities on how to identify and assist victims. The prime minister chaired a ministerial-level national anti-trafficking taskforce. During the year, the taskforce submitted a National Action Plan covering 2013-2015 to Parliament for approval; however, Parliament has yet to vote on the plan, and it lacks an allocated budget or other resources for its implementation. While the taskforce took some initial steps to develop a working level coordination group, it has yet to form this group. The government has not recognized the problem of foreign child sex tourists in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It reported no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.