ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: TIER 2 WATCH LIST
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by initiating the prosecution of a trafficking case, revising its national action plan, training relevant government personnel, increasing funding for anti-trafficking efforts, and providing some assistance to victims. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not report significant law enforcement efforts, reported fewer victims identified and fewer investigations of suspected cases, and continued to issue administrative penalties for suspected complicit police officers rather than charging them with crimes. The government has never reported any trafficking convictions. The government did not allocate sufficient funding, services, and human resources for victim needs, law enforcement and prosecutions, and public awareness campaigns. The government also suffered from a lack of coordination and cohesion in its efforts to combat trafficking due to personnel rotations at the working and ministerial levels and the lack of a dedicated office or personnel for anti-trafficking efforts. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Antigua and Barbuda was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore, Antigua and Barbuda remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the fourth consecutive year.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Provide increased prioritization, coordination, robust funding, and human resources across all agencies to adequately combat human trafficking; vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials; improve the capacity of investigators and prosecutors to expeditiously process trafficking cases; train law enforcement and prosecutors in the relevant legislation and proactively identifying, obtaining, preserving, and corroborating evidence using victim-centered approaches with a special emphasis on identifying trafficking victims in establishments selling sex; consider creating a dedicated trafficking unit with seconded personnel from relevant agencies; develop joint and agency specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all government agencies and relevant NGOs; increase training for relevant immigration, labor, medical personnel, and NGOs; improve data collection on prosecutions, convictions, and victim identification and care; and increase public awareness campaigns.
The government increased prosecution efforts. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act, 2010, which was amended in 2015 to vest jurisdiction for trafficking cases to the High Court of Justice, prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of 20 to 30 years imprisonment and fines of 400,000 to 600,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($148,148 to $222,222). These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Authorities reportedly investigated three cases of trafficking; however, conflicting government accounts made it difficult to determine the number of cases, nature of the crimes, and the nationalities of the victims. The government reported investigating 10 cases of trafficking in 2015 and two cases in 2014. The 2016 cases remained open at the close of the reporting period. The government initiated its first prosecution since 2011 for a case of sex trafficking that occurred in December 2015. The government has never reported any trafficking convictions. Experts noted the prosecutor's office had limited staff and resources and were concerned the police were not undertaking proactive raids to uncover sex trafficking cases. Experts noted investigations of suspected trafficking cases were slow due to overburdened investigators. The police worked closely with Interpol and police from victims' countries, which included Jamaica and Guyana. The police incorporated anti-trafficking training into the standard curriculum for all new officers. The immigration department also conducted training for officials in coordination with an international organization.
The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Authorities continued to review the case of three police officers suspected of involvement in trafficking crimes; the police standards committee is reviewing the case for disciplinary action, but did not prosecute the officers. Over the past two years, the police force has administered administrative sanctions for officers suspected or implicated in trafficking, rather than charge them with a crime under the country's trafficking laws.
The government maintained protection efforts, although there was not sufficient funding to adequately provide for victim needs. There was no standardized database available to track trafficking cases across all departments, although the government continued to develop a shared database. The government completed drafting SOPs for referral procedures in trafficking cases, including for law enforcement, healthcare, and gender offices. With the assistance of an international organization, the government held a four-day, multi-agency training session in October 2016.
Conflicting government accounts made it difficult to determine the number of victims identified and circumstances of their victimization. The government reported identifying four foreign female trafficking victims: two of the victims were reportedly subjected to labor trafficking and two other cases were under investigation; one of the victims was a minor. In 2015, the government reported identifying 10 victims. The gender affairs department was responsible for providing care 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, through a referral process. The gender affairs department obtained in-kind contributions for victim care donated from businesses, including hotel stays and groceries. For the reporting period, one victim received shelter, food, and personal items. The other three victims requested repatriation assistance but declined other victim services.
Experts noted problems in how the government identified and provided suitable shelter for victims and payment for medical services involving foreign nationals. Medical providers were trained during the reporting period on trafficking indicators to understand the type of psychological care and sensitivity required for victims. Experts were concerned that the government was unable to keep information on victims confidential due to the paperwork circulated among several public offices. The government did not issue residency benefits or provide long-term shelter during the reporting period. The government assisted with repatriation of three victims. The gender affairs department and police encouraged victim participation in investigations and prosecutions; all victims cooperated with police. The 2010 anti-trafficking act protects identified victims from punishment for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking. There were no reports of trafficking victims being detained or fined for illegal acts committed as a result of trafficking. Per the anti-trafficking act, a victim can file a civil suit for restitution from a government official complicit in trafficking; however, the government reported no civil suits during the reporting period.
The government maintained modest prevention efforts, which were hampered by a lack of leadership, funding, and coordination. According to the Ministry of National Security, the 2016 budget for anti-trafficking efforts was 109,405 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($40,520), an increase from 66,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars in 2015 ($24,444). It was unclear how this funding was allocated. All government agencies reported a lack of funding for anti-trafficking efforts and victim care. Experts noted a shortage of funding and human resources for public awareness campaigns. The government conducted an eight-day awareness-raising campaign, including radio and television interviews, two school presentations, and a street fair and awareness march. The anti-trafficking committee met 10 times during the reporting period and continued to oversee implementation of the three-year national action plan, which expires in 2018. There was no full-time working-level staff member within the Ministry of National Security to lead anti-trafficking efforts, and frequent personnel rotations among the working and leadership levels, contributed to problems in leadership, coordination, knowledge, and training among government agencies. The government released a 2015 annual report on the efforts of the anti-trafficking committee during the reporting period. The government revised its 2016-2018 action plan to include more specificity of tasks and assessment plans for government agencies and NGOs. The government included diplomatic staff in its anti-trafficking training sessions. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, Antigua and Barbuda is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Documented and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean region, notably from Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, as well as from Southeast Asia, are most vulnerable to trafficking. Sex trafficking has been reported in bars, taverns, and brothels. Recruitment of victims has often involved the promise of opportunities, such as a job offer to work as a dancer in a club. There are anecdotal reports of children subjected to sex trafficking, including by parents and caregivers. Forced labor occurs in domestic service and the retail sector. There have been concerns about trafficking-related complicity by police officers.