Antigua and Barbuda
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: Tier 2 Watch List
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 as well as from Southeast Asia comprise the population most vulnerable to trafficking. The Trafficking in Persons Committee has reported forced prostitution in bars, taverns, and brothels. Forced labor occurs 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. Credible sources reiterated concerns of possible trafficking-related complicity by some off-duty police officers providing security at sex trade establishments, though the Royal Antiguan and Barbuda Police Force established a policy prohibiting it.
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. In November 2014, the High Court of Justice declared the criminal penalties of the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Act unconstitutional, impeding efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable. The government did not report any convictions of traffickers but did charge two individuals with trafficking in persons in two separate prosecutions. Authorities identified and referred seven trafficking victims to an international organization to repatriate those victims who wished to return home and provide assistance to those who wished to stay in Antigua and Barbuda.
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 traffickers, including officials complicit in trafficking; continue identifying and protecting trafficking victims; formalize procedures for law enforcement, child welfare officials, and other front-line responders to identify victims and refer them to appropriate services; develop and adopt a national anti-trafficking plan; provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel; 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 convicting and punishing traffickers but charged two individuals with trafficking in persons in two separate cases. 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 of 400,000 to 600,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($148,000 to $222,000). 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. However, the high court ruled the anti-trafficking act was unconstitutional because jurisdiction was vested in the Magistrate’s Court rather than the high court, a problem noted since the law was initially passed in 2010. In its current form, the law impairs the prosecution’s ability to successfully prosecute and convict traffickers. Authorities conducted two sex trafficking investigations, one involving a U.S. citizen charged with three counts of human trafficking and one involving a Dominican Republic national charged with four counts of trafficking in persons. In comparison, authorities investigated three sex trafficking cases in 2013. Barbuda’s high court dismissed one prosecution from 2011 in December 2014; the government did not report any new prosecutions, convictions, or punishments of traffickers in 2014. 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, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made uneven progress in the protection of victims. The gender affairs department continued to provide assistance to victims such as counseling, health care, shelter, food and clothing, assistance to communicate with families, travel arrangements, and assistance with employment, work permits, and immigration relief. Law enforcement authorities screened 16 potential trafficking victims and identified seven adult female trafficking victims, an increase from one suspected sex trafficking victim identified in 2013. The government repatriated three Dominican victims and provided legal residency and work permits to one Dominican and three Jamaicans. The government provides modest financial assistance to NGOs to shelter victims. Gender affairs officials provided shelter and services to the potential victims identified in 2014. The government offered one identified foreign victim long-term residency and integration into Antiguan society as a legal alternative to removal to a country where the victim might have faced retribution or hardship. The government estimated its annual budget for victim protection and assistance at 70,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($25,900), which was augmented by an international organization. The 2010 anti-trafficking act protects identified victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking. The anti-trafficking law establishes that trafficking victims should not be returned to their own countries or a country from which they have been subjected to trafficking without consideration of their safety and the possibility of harm, death, or being subjected to trafficking again.
The government sustained prevention efforts. It continued to operate a gender affairs hotline with operators trained to identify and assist victims; the hotline received four trafficking-related calls in 2014. Authorities continued to distribute public awareness materials and posters in English and Spanish that targeted victims, as well as the general public, and shared information on radio and television. The gender affairs department partnered with other government officials and NGOs to raise awareness about trafficking indicators and available government services, including by visiting two secondary schools and distributing posters throughout the country. The government developed a national anti-trafficking action plan in consultation with an international organization. The Trafficking in Persons Committee included representatives from various government entities and two NGOs and met every six weeks. A separate anti-trafficking taskforce focusing on trafficking investigations and victim protection met at least twice per month in 2014. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government reported raiding two establishments 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.