Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 14:37 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Trinidad and Tobago

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Trinidad and Tobago, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c8a2a.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Tier 2)

Trinidad and Tobago is a destination, source, and transit country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and adults subjected to forced labor. Women and girls from South America and the Dominican Republic are subjected to sex trafficking in Trinbagonian brothels and clubs. A high risk group for sex trafficking and forced criminal activity within Trinidad and Tobago are Trinbagonian homeless children or children from difficult family circumstances. Economic migrants from the Caribbean region and from Asia, including India and China, may be vulnerable to forced labor. Some companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago reportedly hold the passports of foreign employees, a common indicator of human trafficking, until departure. There also have been instances of migrants in forced domestic service. A small number of trafficking victims from Trinidad and Tobago have in the past been identified in the United Kingdom and the United States. As a hub for regional travel, Trinidad and Tobago also is a potential transit point for trafficking victims traveling to Caribbean and South American destinations.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government passed comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in 2011 that prohibits all forms of trafficking and provides explicit and extensive victim protections, although the law had not been enacted by the end of the reporting period, and for another year, the government did not prosecute any trafficking offenders. The government identified few victims of trafficking, raising concerns that its procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as foreign women in prostitution, migrant workers, and homeless children, was insufficient.

Recommendations for Trinidad and Tobago: Enact and fully implement the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Act to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including any officials who may be complicit in human trafficking; consult with IOM on strengthening the standard operating procedures for proactively identifying and assisting victims of trafficking; use the Trafficking in Persons Act to assist more forced labor and sex trafficking victims; ensure that suspected victims are taken to a safe location while conducting trafficking investigations, as victims of human trafficking often feel threatened and are reluctant to identify themselves as victims during a raid; and implement a national public awareness campaign in multiple languages that addresses all forms of trafficking, including the prostitution of Trinbagonian children and forced labor as well as the demand for commercial sex and forced labor.

Prosecution

The government made some progress in the area of prosecution, notably by passing comprehensive trafficking legislation. In June 2011, the legislature passed the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011, which prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor and contains extensive victim protections. The Act prescribes penalties of 15 years to life imprisonment with fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. The government has not yet enacted the law, however, and before the criminal provisions in the Act can be implemented, the Act requires the government to establish a ministerial level national anti-trafficking task force to coordinate government policy on human trafficking and a counter-trafficking unit within the Ministry of National Security to handle cases. As the new law is not yet in force, the government's ability to prosecute trafficking offenders or any officials guilty of trafficking complicity is significantly hampered. The government reported only one labor trafficking investigation, no sex trafficking investigations, and no labor or sex trafficking prosecutions during the reporting period.

Protection

The government made some progress in establishing trafficking-specific protection policies but only provided minimal assistance to trafficking victims. The government identified only one labor trafficking victim and no sex trafficking victims, despite multiple brothel raids and allegations of suspected human trafficking activity in Trinidad and Tobago during the reporting period. The small number of victims identified raised serious concerns that the victim identification procedures for raids on suspected human trafficking were insufficient. An NGO that received government funding provided shelter and protection to the one identified trafficking victim and her dependent. The government reportedly offered suspected human trafficking victims some social services directly and through NGOs that received government funding, but there was no specific budget dedicated toward trafficking victim protection. The newly passed law, which has not yet been enacted, outlines specific services to trafficking victims and contains extensive victim protection provisions to encourage victims' participation in prosecutions of trafficking offenders, including victim confidentiality provisions and victim compensation. It also states that past sexual behavior of victims and consent of victims to exploitation are irrelevant to accessing benefits or pursuing the prosecution of trafficking offenders. The Act contains explicit protection to ensure that victims are not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being in a trafficking situation. The Act also provides temporary legal alternatives to deportation for foreign victims.

Prevention

The government made some progress in prevention during the reporting period. The Ministry of National Security in partnership with a local NGO implemented a one-week national human trafficking awareness program. The Ministry of National Security and partner NGOs have established a Facebook page on their joint counter trafficking initiative. Operators trained in trafficking awareness ran NGO hotlines for child abuse and domestic violence. The government co-funded trafficking awareness training for 50 immigration officers during the reporting period. While the government's formal, ministerial level national task force was not operational during the reporting period, the government made progress in the bureaucratic processes, including budgetary allocations and the establishment of new positions, necessary for the cabinet to approve the task force and the counter trafficking unit; both should be operational by June 2012. The newly passed 2011 law mandates that one of the functions of the ministerial task force is to monitor and evaluate the government's anti-trafficking efforts, although no such efforts were reported as of April 2012. The government did not undertake measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, such as an awareness campaign targeted at clients of the sex trade. Authorities did not consider child sex tourism to be a problem in Trinidad and Tobago and no such cases were identified, investigated, or prosecuted during the reporting period.

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