St. Vincent and the Grenadines has maintained its Tier 2 ranking in the United States Department of State 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report). It is the second consecutive year that the country has attained this ranking.
In releasing the report on June 28, 2018, Secretary of State Hon. Michael R. Pompeo asserts “this year’s report focuses on effective ways local communities can address human trafficking proactively and how national governments can support and empower them”.
SVG was commended very highly 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 to relevant government officials and NGOs; increasing it cooperation with foreign governments to combat trafficking; and improved its public awareness campaigns”.
On June 26, 2018, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU) placed twenty four (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 inter alia:
- “amend the trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions allowing fines in lieu of imprisonment;
- Increase government funding across all relevant agencies to combat human trafficking;
- Implement the 2016-2020 National Action Plan;
- Increase investigations of suspected sex and labour trafficking cases;
- Prosecute and convict traffickers”.
It must be noted that the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act ( the law that criminalises human trafficking) 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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.
With respect to the National Action Plan to combat human trafficking 2016-2020; this plan was approved by Cabinet in 2016 and is being enforce 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
All reported and suspected cases of human trafficking have been investigated and treated with according to the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Whenever sufficient evidence is adduced to prove a case of human trafficking, perpetrators will be prosecuted accordingly.
The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines remains extraordinarily committed to combating human trafficking. The government has demonstrated so and will continue its efforts unabated in preventing human trafficking; protecting victims of human trafficking; prosecuting human traffickers and building partnerships with all relevant stakeholders.
To this end, special thanks and appreciation are extended to the 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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.