St. Vincent and the Grenadines
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES: Tier 2 Watch List
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 government officials report some adults pressure local minors into sex trafficking. One NGO reported that local minors are subjected to sex trafficking by tourists in the Grenadines; local authorities have not identified any cases. Foreign women engaged in prostitution are subjected to trafficking for sex and foreign workers from South America and the Caribbean are subjected to trafficking for forced labor both in the country or while transiting through; however, the government and NGOs reported the number of women from other Caribbean islands subjected to sex trafficking decreased during the last few years. Foreign workers employed by small, foreign-owned companies are particularly vulnerable to labor trafficking. Men, women, and children are vulnerable to forced labor, primarily in agriculture; government officials and civil society suspect drug traffickers subject workers to forced labor in the production of marijuana. NGOs and government officials report attempts to subject Vincentians to trafficking for both forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in foreign countries.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not fully meet 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, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. Per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards. For the first time, the government charged a suspected trafficker under the 2011 anti-trafficking act, in a case initially thought to involve forced labor of three Jamaican nationals; however, unable to substantiate these allegations, the government dropped all charges in the case by the end of the reporting period. Nonetheless, officials’ efforts to investigate these allegations and provide assistance to three Jamaican nationals, initially believed to be potential victims, demonstrated progress from previous years’ lack of attention to potential cases and victim needs. The government provided shelter, services, and immigration relief to three potential victims. The government approved and implemented a national action plan, continued an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign, and conducted anti-trafficking training for law enforcement, immigration and labor officials, and civil society. It also formed a national working group to focus on active cases, and hired a social worker to liaise with entities involved in anti-trafficking efforts. The government has yet to obtain a trafficking conviction, and guidelines for the referral of victims continued to lack the necessary details to make them operational. The government does not offer any specialized services for victims of human trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES:
Vigorously prosecute and convict traffickers and impose sufficiently stringent sentences; increase trainings for officials on the definition of trafficking in persons under the 2011 anti-trafficking act and proper case investigation and management techniques; proactively identify suspected trafficking victims, particularly among vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, and refer them to appropriate care and services; promote a victim-centered approach to victim identification, protection, and prosecution by involving NGOs or other victim advocates and widely disseminate guidelines for identifying victims to government officials and NGOs; develop and disseminate a more robust government-wide referral process for different types of suspected trafficking victims; conduct victim identification interviews in safe locations, as victims often first appear as immigration or prostitution-related violators and are reluctant to disclose details of their exploitation in law enforcement settings; raise awareness about forced labor and sex trafficking using the national campaign; and provide anti-trafficking training to immigration officials and diplomatic personnel.
The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government has never convicted a trafficker. The special police unit focusing on trafficking investigated three alleged trafficking cases in 2015, compared with three in 2014; one investigation uncovered an attempt to subject an adult female citizen to trafficking in Europe. Following investigation, officials brought one case, initially suspected to involve labor trafficking of three Jamaican nationals, to trial as the first prosecution under the anti-trafficking act, but later dropped all charges, as the alleged crime could not be substantiated as trafficking. The government closed a human trafficking case, allegedly involving drug trafficking, from the previous reporting period due to insufficient evidence. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; overall corruption is a problem, but does not appear to be an obstacle to anti-trafficking efforts. The anti-trafficking police unit conducted trafficking training for new police recruits, as well as 60 law enforcement officers; immigration, health, and labor department officials; and civil society.
The government maintained modest efforts in victim protection. Similar to 2013 and 2014, the government did not identify any trafficking victims during the year. However, officials assisted three Jamaicans, initially considered potential victims tied to the government’s first prosecution under the anti-trafficking act, and it referred them for government-funded services. The special anti-trafficking police unit, with assistance from an international organization, reportedly developed victim identification guidelines in 2014; however, government ministries, immigration officials, and local NGOs had no knowledge of the guidelines in 2015. The national anti-trafficking action plan provides guidelines for the referral of victims to appropriate shelter and services, but those guidelines continued to lack details required for effective implementation. Both government and NGO sources said that improved screening at immigration checkpoints and routine police action substantially curtailed the number of women from other Caribbean islands subjected to sex trafficking. The government did not fund any trafficking-specific assistance programs, though it continued to provide approximately 200,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($74,000) in funding to a domestic violence shelter, which has been equipped to accommodate adult women and child trafficking victims. However, that shelter and other domestic violence shelters for women and girls did not assist trafficking victims in 2015. The government reported that it spent several thousand Eastern Caribbean dollars on the care of the three Jamaican nationals initially thought to be victims, who reportedly chose not to stay in the shelter. Two different government-funded NGOs shelter boys; one shelters boys under 14 years of age and another shelters boys aged 14 to 18. The NGOs did not shelter any minor male trafficking victims during the reporting period. Some shelters had policies prohibiting adult and minor victims from leaving at will. The government’s anti-trafficking law contains incentives to encourage victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, including temporary and permanent residence permits. The three Jamaican nationals assisted an investigation and prosecution in 2015 and received temporary residency status, and one received a work permit. The government reported that benefits were not linked to whether a victim assisted law enforcement or participated in a trial. The anti-trafficking law provides alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution, and the three victims received this immigration relief. There were no reports the government penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government made some progress in preventing trafficking. The government launched an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign, primarily at primary schools and faith-based institutions. The police operated an information phone line, which is advertised in their anti-trafficking outreach materials; in 2015, it received 24 trafficking-related calls. The prime minister chaired a ministerial-level national anti-trafficking taskforce, which developed a national anti-trafficking action plan covering 2016-2018; the cabinet approved the action plan. The taskforce provided quarterly and annual reports to the cabinet. The government formed a national working group to focus on active cases that complements the high-level policy-making national taskforce, and hired a social worker to liaise with entities involved in anti-trafficking efforts. The government developed anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, but did not disseminate it. One NGO reported that local minors are subjected to sex trafficking by tourists in the Grenadines. The government investigated and found no evidence to substantiate the claim. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the year.