Barbados’ failure to secure a human trafficking conviction is one of the reasons the country was downgraded in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
In fact, in the report, a United Nations (UN) expert said that Barbados was a transit country for trafficked children and charged that Government was doing little to address the problem.
According to the report which was released today, Barbados has been relegated from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch List (2WL).
The last time the country found itself in Tier 2WL was in 2013.
Several other Caribbean countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago were downgraded to Tier 2.
Only the Bahamas and Guyana, which are both in Tier 1, were deemed to have “fully met” the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The report acknowledged that Barbados had made some strides in addressing human trafficking.
“The Government of Barbados does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included conducting raids on nightclubs suspected of trafficking, screening vulnerable individuals for trafficking, providing anti-trafficking training for immigration officials and the police force, and conducting public awareness campaigns,” the report stated.
However, the report chastised Government for not doing enough in prosecuting persons found guilty of human trafficking.
The report revealed that even though authorities conducted two investigations in 2018, five in 2017, three in 2016, and six in 2015, they did not initiate any prosecutions under the Trafficking In Persons Prevention Act (TIPPA).
“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 and Government’s anti-trafficking law did not provide penalties that were commensurate with other serious crimes. Therefore Barbados was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List,” the report explained.
It also charged that the 2013 prosecution of two suspected traffickers remained pending before the court.
The report disclosed that Government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of Government employees complicit in trafficking offences.
It further charged that Government decreased already minimal efforts to protect victims.
Among one of the many recommendations coming out of the report was for Government to vigorously investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers and apply adequate sentences, as well as to identify victims in vulnerable populations and areas.
It further suggested that Government must: “Complete and implement an anti-trafficking manual for law enforcement on identifying, referring and protecting potential trafficking victims; complete and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking; provide adequate funding to implement the national action plan and support Government agencies’ anti-trafficking activities; amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment; provide adequate accommodations with trauma-informed service providers for potential and identified trafficking victims and to amend the Recruiting of Workers Act to specify the responsible Government agency for the enforcement functions.”