Barbados bristles at human trafficking ranking

Barbados Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite.
Photo by George Alleyne

The United States’ continued challenging of Barbados regarding prevention of trafficking of persons has angered this island’s Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite, who is questioning the American approach and methodology for labelling this state.

Barbados has for years been placed in Tier Two among countries in the US annual report on trafficking in persons, which means the island’s government is regarded as not fully meeting the American Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards.

“It does annoy me, in all seriousness, that someone sits in Washington, writes a report every year, changes very little in the report and then determines the fate of [almost 300,000] citizens here by a stroke of a pen,” Brathwaite said last week.

According to the United States report, among the reasons Barbados continues to languish below the top position of Tier One up to the 2017 report is because, “there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution, and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims, and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials.”

But Brathwaite snapped, “so we’re not compliant because we have not prosecuted anyone. It does not make a lot of sense.”

Barbados has never convicted anyone for trafficking in persons, but reportedly has one court case lying and awaiting a concluded hearing and verdict since 2013.

This absence of convictions for the criminal offence of human trafficking contrasts starkly with the known situation on this island into which females mainly from Guyana and Jamaica are known to be brought in by other persons for work in night entertainment venues, where it is believed there is prostitution.

Up to the 2017 report, Barbados was in the Tier Two ranking along with Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

While the Barbados attorney general bristles at the US categorisation of the island, other CARICOM states were recently given thumbs up for their efforts.

Guyana, which has graduated to Tier One after flagging in a much lower ranking for a number of years, has received more positive points in the American 2018 Trafficking in Persons Interim Assessment for, securing one conviction for human trafficking, training law enforcement prosecutors on victim identification, and forming a Community Advocates Program to train village leaders in the interior of the country and mining regions.

Antigua, that is slightly lower than Barbados on a Tier Two Watchlist, was also congratulated in the interim report, released this month, for hiring a human trafficking legal expert, and training government workers.

Haiti is in the same ranking as Antigua and received kudos for investigating “the alleged trafficking of 25 children for the purpose of domestic servitude.”

Suriname which was also ranked in Tier Two Watchlist for 2017 found itself mentioned in the interim report for investigating and prosecuting “multiple ongoing trafficking cases, passed legislation providing more oversight of employment agencies, and identified services and reintegration support for victims.”

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