Barbados News

United States gives Caribbean failing grade for TIP

It said the efforts by the Bahamas included passing a national action plan, increasing funding for victim assistance and anti-trafficking prevention, elevating national anti-trafficking planning to the office of the Prime Minister, and instituting an anti-trafficking course into the training curriculum of the Immigration Department.

“Although the government meets the minimum standards, authorities initiated significantly fewer investigations and inconsistently applied screening procedures to vulnerable populations. Credible allegations of corruption raised concerns about vulnerabilities of potential trafficking victims during the reporting period,” it said.

In the case of Guyana, the US State Department, which released the report noted that Guyana “demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by increasing funding for victim assistance, identifying and assisting more victims for the third consecutive year, and opening and operating a trafficking shelter outside of the capital area.

“Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not provide adequate protection and shelter outside the capital, or for child and male victims. The number of trafficking investigations and new prosecutions decreased, and the number of successful convictions remained low,” the report noted.

But the report noted that the Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago had been placed on Tier 2.

In the case of Antigua and Barbuda, Washington said that the island does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

“The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Antigua and Barbuda remained on Tier 2. These efforts included amending the trafficking law so that penalties are commensurate with penalties of other serious crimes, passing a national action plan for 2019 to 2021, drafting formal standard operating procedures on victim referral specific to each agency, increasing training on indicators of trafficking, and liaising with another government on trafficking investigations.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not initiate any prosecutions and identified fewer victims. To date, the government has failed to convict a trafficker, and did not report the decision on penalties for complicit police officers in a 2015 case during the reporting period.”

Washington said that while the authorities in Barbados conducted raids on nightclubs suspected of trafficking, screening vulnerable individuals for trafficking, providing anti-trafficking training for immigration officials and the police force, as well as a public awareness campaigns, they were not sufficient to upgrade the island.

“However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government identified no victims for the past two reporting periods, initiated no new prosecutions for the fifth consecutive year, and has never secured a trafficking conviction.

“The government did not complete its national action plan or an anti-trafficking manual for interviewing and providing assistance for suspected trafficking victims. Government agencies continued to report a lack of resources for their anti-trafficking activities.”

Washington said that the Barbados government’s anti-trafficking law did not provide penalties that were commensurate with other serious crimes.

Belize remained on Tier 2 even as the Dean Barrow government made key achievements during the reporting period.

These efforts included initiating two new prosecutions for the first time in four years and appointing new leadership and dedicating five officers to the anti-trafficking police unit.

“Despite these achievements, the government did not investigate or prosecute any public officials for complicity in trafficking-related offenses, despite allegations of official complicity. Authorities arrested or deported victims for immigration violations due to improving, but inconsistent application of formal victim identification procedures.””

Washington said that Belmopan did not convict any traffickers for the third consecutive reporting period, due in part to a slow and cumbersome justice system.

Haiti, the only French-speaking CARICOM country, is reported to have made “significant efforts’ to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, with the government demonstrating overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period”.

These efforts included investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers, passing a national action plan, closing several abusive orphanages, and increasing law enforcement training. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.

But the report noted that the government did not criminally prosecute recent cases of alleged official complicity.

“The government did not allocate sufficient funding for its anti-trafficking efforts or victim services and did not implement its standard operating procedures for victim identification. The government’s weak judicial system and lack of awareness about trafficking among police, prosecutors, and judges hindered prosecution and conviction of traffickers. The government did little to combat child domestic servitude,” the report noted.

In the case of Jamaica, the State Department said while Kingston is “making significant efforts’ to deal with TIP, it still does not however “fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”.

It said among the efforts undertaken by the government included investigating and prosecuting more suspected traffickers, achieving a swift conviction that included prison time, and publishing its first annual report on trafficking in persons in Jamaica.

“The government also increased funding for anti-trafficking efforts. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Increased funding did not result in improved protections for victims or increased accountability for traffickers.

“The government identified fewer victims compared to the previous year; it provided minimal services to identified victims and did not refer any Jamaican victims to shelters; and it convicted only one trafficker. Public awareness and outreach activities were ineffective in increasing officials’ and the public’s capacity to identify and appropriately respond to suspected cases of trafficking in their communities.”

Despite passing a national action plan, St. Lucia was considered not to have fully met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, even as Washington acknowledged that the island “is making significant efforts to do so”.

It said Castries had investigated suspected traffickers, funding anti-trafficking prevention, conducting baseline trafficking research, and training its personnel in measures to combat trafficking.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not identify any victims for the third consecutive year, has not initiated a prosecution since 2015, and has never convicted a trafficker.

“The government did not formally approve standardized written procedures to identify victims, although they were used informally by law enforcement.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which also fell into the Tier 2 category was complimented on making efforts to deal with TIP including passing legislation that allowed authorities to screen for suspected traffickers and trafficking victims, increasing training to relevant government officials, increasing cooperation with foreign governments to combat trafficking, extending and updating the national action plan through 2020, and improving its public awareness campaigns.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Authorities have not prosecuted a trafficking case since 2015 and have never convicted a trafficker. The government’s anti-trafficking law, which allowed for fines in lieu of imprisonment, was not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes. Government agencies cited a lack of resources for anti-trafficking efforts.”

Washington said that the Dutch-speaking CARICOM country of Suriname demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period including approving a new action plan, developing a new formal victim referral process, convicting more traffickers and imposing significant prison terms, and launching a new trafficking hotline and campaign.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Authorities investigated and prosecuted fewer cases and identified fewer victims amid inadequate efforts to screen vulnerable individuals, including detained migrants prior to deportation.”

Trinidad and Tobago, which is now facing an influx of Venezuelan nationals fleeing the South American country because of the ongoing economic and political situation, was informed that it “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” even though “ it is making significant efforts to do so” and therefore remains on Tier 2.

Washington said Port of Spain had undertaken several initiatives including increasing anti-trafficking training for its officials, initiating investigations against three potentially complicit officials, initiating more prosecutions, establishing a new intelligence task force to improve investigations, and developing a new memorandum of understanding between its children’s authority and anti-trafficking unit to better protect child victims.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government had yet to secure a conviction under its 2011 anti-trafficking law.

“Public officials, media, and experts noted increasing reports of potential government complicity in trafficking cases, with insufficient government attention to the issue. Due to a lack of screening, the government penalized some trafficking victims, including children, for immigration offenses as a result of the trafficking crime,” the report stated.

It said that Port of Spain “did not adequately screen migrants, asylum-seekers, or refugees for trafficking indicators, including among Venezuelans.

“The government decreased the amount of funding for victim services and did not provide adequate victim care in some cases,” the report added.

CMC

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