Overview: In 2016, Trinidad and Tobago focused on national security. The Trinidadian government remained a willing U.S. counterterrorism partner and quickly accepted offers of assistance to share border security information, develop a strategy to counter violent extremism, and prosecute terrorists. While there were no known indigenous or foreign terrorist groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago, the country had the highest per capita rate of ISIS recruitment in the Western Hemisphere.
Trinidad's government reported in 2015 that more than 100 Trinidadian nationals, including women and minors, had traveled to Syria and Iraq. A handful have reportedly returned to Trinidad and Tobago. Muslims make up about 6 percent of the population, roughly split between persons of African and South Asian heritage; foreign terrorist fighters reportedly come from both communities. Many, although not all, have had prior affiliations with criminal gangs.
An inter-agency National Counterterrorism Working Group, led by the Ministry of National Security, is working on a national counterterrorism strategy to address priorities and principles. The group meets on a regular basis to: (1) detect, deter, and disrupt any possible terrorist actions; (2) prevent a terrorist act in Trinidad and Tobago; and (3) identify and prosecute terrorists. The national strategy is in its final stages and will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval when it is completed.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Trinidad and Tobago continued to review the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act to address gaps in the legislation, including foreign terrorist fighters and their possible return to the country.
Trinidad and Tobago, with the assistance of certain police units and government sections, continued to identify and monitor persons that raise terrorism concerns and maintained a list of nationals who traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIS. More than 70 nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are believed to be fighting with ISIS in Syria.
There was limited interagency cooperation and coordination, and limited information sharing due to allegations of corruption among different law enforcement units. Prosecutors are consulted on an ad hoc basis with regard to criminal cases.
Biographic and biometric screening capabilities are limited at ports of entry. Trinidad and Tobago collects advance passenger information and disseminates this information to other countries.
The defense force is responsible for the security of the coastline spanning the two islands and assists law enforcement in combating transnational crime. Both the defense and police forces are limited in human and material resources to meet strategic security challenges.
The government continued to cooperate with the United States on security matters, including participation in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provides counterterrorism training for police, and a Caribbean Basin Security Initiative program that focus on training the police and military forces to ensure citizen security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
In June, FATF published its mutual evaluation of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago has criminalized the offense of terrorist financing; however, there remain several deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism framework that Trinidad and Tobago is working to address. This includes a limited use of financial intelligence; an inadequate sanctions framework with no provisions for prohibiting material support to terrorists; no policy in place for the management, monitoring, and supervision of non-profit organizations; and a lack of terrorist financing prosecutions.
In September, Trinidad and Tobago designated 80 international and local entities as terrorist organizations, including ISIS. Of the 80 listed, only one, Kareem Ibrahim, was local. The government continued to work with the FIU and the police to add more local subjects to the list.
A separate report, from Trinidad and Tobago's FIU, cited 182 suspicious transactions involving possible terrorist financing in 2016, all of which were under investigation at year's end.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The government has not developed a national countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy. There have been some efforts in the prevention of crime and anti-violence programs for at-risk youth, however, which include community law enforcement partnerships. In June 2016, leaders from Trinidad and Tobago's Islamic community signed a joint statement condemning violent extremism. The statement read: "The Muslims of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, with one voice, strongly condemn ISIS and all forms of violent extremism locally and internationally."
International and Regional Cooperation: Trinidad and Tobago is an active participant in regional security initiatives such as the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism and the Caribbean Community Implementing Agency for Crime and Security.