Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite wants to see with his own eyes, evidence of sex trafficking and forced labour here.
The US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report listed Barbados as a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.
Brathwaite announced today that he would lead a national task force that will soon conduct an in-the-field probe into the situation.
He told the closing ceremony of a two-day workshop on a draft five-year strategic action plan to counter human trafficking across the island that much of the talk about forced labour was anecdotal.
The minister, who chairs the National Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking, said he would go into the communities in search of a true picture.
“I am going to get some of my colleagues here and we are going to drive around to the different areas and see for ourselves, just like we had planned to go to several establishments and see for ourselves what was happening.
“I believe, and we believe from the police and immigration perspective, that we have to be proactive so that when we hear stories in the communities or when we go into the international community . . . we can say with certainty that this is not what actually happens in Barbados,” he said
Brathwaite, who is also Attorney General, said the investigation would allow the authorities to have a proper analysis of the true situation, having gone into the community and experienced first-hand. He stressed that everything must be done to ensure that the State Department remove Barbados from Tier 2 in the trafficking of persons ranking this year to Tier 1 next year.
“We are going to spend a couple of days driving around Barbados to try to nip these issues in the bud before they go any further,” the Minister of Home Affairs said.
According to the State Department, Tier 2 comprises countries whose governments do not fully comply with the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Tier 1 is the highest ranking and although it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem, it indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA’s minimum standards, it says.
While he believed that the US arrived at its conclusions about forced labour by misinterpreting the norms of Barbados, Brathwaite nevertheless said it was the absence of the action plan which covered the required prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership that kept this country from meeting the minimum global standards.
The plan, which should also soon go before Cabinet for consideration, will detail the programmes to be implemented by Government to reduce or eliminate human trafficking over the next five years.
The Attorney General also said that legislation, which was another requirement, was expected to go before Parliament when it resumes next month.
“It was identified that our legal framework had some issues. I am pleased to announce that I believe that we should have that finalized by the time Parliament resumes in October. The draft that I have seen and looked at . . . would have captured most of the issues that were raised by the State Department over the last couple of years,” he said. (EJ)