St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has maintained its Tier 2 ranking in the United States Department of State 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report). This is the second consecutive year that the country has attained this ranking.
The report, which was released on June 28, 2018 very highly commended SVG for its efforts in combating human trafficking both locally, regionally and internationally over the reporting period.
The 2018 edition of the report states “the government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigation more suspected cases; increasing training of relevant government officials and NGOs; increasing its co-operation with foreign governments to combat trafficking; and improved its public awareness campaigns.”
On June 26, 2018, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU) placed 24 sensitization stickers at all of the immigration desks at the Argyle International Airport including arrivals, departures and the domestic travel desk. This proactive move is to bring awareness about the dangers of human trafficking to local and international travellers arriving, departing or transiting through the airport.
The 2018 TIP Report also made several recommendations to the government including: amending the trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment; increasing government funding across all relevant agencies to combat human trafficking; implementing the 2016-2020 National Action Plan; increasing investigations of suspected sex and labour trafficking cases; prosecuting and convicting traffickers.
A release from the ATIPU said the SVG Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act is regarded as a “model” piece of legislation with very severe penalties for persons convicted of human trafficking. A person convicted of human trafficking in SVG is liable to imprisonment to 15 years or a fine of $ 250,000 or both. Further, the convicted person can be imprisoned for an additional 20 years under the subsection entitled “aggravated circumstance” if the victim is a pregnant woman and/or the convicted person used a dangerous weapon to exploit his/her victim. There are other offences under the Act which carries similar stringent penalties.
The National Action Plan to combat human trafficking 2016-2020 was approved by Cabinet in 2016 and is being enforced by the institutional mechanisms approved by Cabinet so to do. The action plan was updated just over one year ago in June 2017 during the ACP-EU Technical Assistance programme that was approved for SVG.
All reported and suspected cases of human trafficking have been investigated and treated in accordance with the laws of SVG, the release said.
The ATIPU thanked members of the National Taskforce against Trafficking in Persons (NTFATIP) for their oversight and leadership of the counter-trafficking strategy; the Commissioner of Police and other ranks of the Royal SVG Police Force; the members of Inter-Ministerial Working Group against Trafficking in Persons (IMWG); the staff at the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU); Non-State Actors; NGO bodies and all other critical stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking in SVG.