[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Antigua and Barbuda is a destination country for women trafficked from Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic for the purposes of sexual exploitation; it may also be a destination country for women trafficked for the purposes of forced domestic servitude. Well-financed businessmen from the Dominican Republic and Antiguan citizens acting as pimps and brothel owners traffic women into the four main, illegal brothels that operate in Antigua, as well as to private residences that operate as brothels. Women voluntarily came to Antigua to engage in prostitution; brothel managers later confiscate their passports and threaten the women with deportation until they repay the brothel owner for travel and other expenses. Some victims trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation had been given work permits as "entertainers" to legally enter the country. Information on the full extent of the human trafficking problem in Antigua and Barbuda is not available; anecdotal reporting suggests, however, that no Antiguan citizens have been trafficked and the current number of foreign victims is comparatively small.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite limited resources, competing priorities, and a relatively small number of victims, the government investigated identified incidences of trafficking, cooperated with other Caribbean governments on trafficking issues, ensured victims’ access to social services, and conducted bilingual public awareness campaigns. No trafficking offenders, however, have been arrested or prosecuted, and law enforcement agencies continue to treat victims as criminals.

Recommendations for Antigua and Barbuda: Develop and implement a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law; arrest, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign women in prostitution and as domestic servants; and provide foreign victims legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship and retribution.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda did not make adequate progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. It has no specific or comprehensive laws prohibiting trafficking in persons. Trafficking offenders could be prosecuted under relevant provisions in immigration, prostitution, or labor laws, though there were no such reported efforts over the reporting period. Penalties prescribed for trafficking offenses of five years’ imprisonment are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Officials from the Ministry of Labor periodically inspect workplaces, and have reported no instances of forced labor of children or adults. Government agencies received two reports of victims trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, yet made no efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution. In the two cases reported to the Gender Affairs Directorate, two women were granted work permits as “entertainers” and legally entered the country. They were later forced into prostitution by their employers. The Gender Affairs Directorate has requested a review of the immigration department to ascertain why officials issued work-permits to foreigners who were almost certain to engage in an illegal activity such as prostitution, whether forced or voluntary. Antigua and Barbuda contributes staff and other resources to the Regional Security Service (RSS), a coalition of top-level police, customs, immigration, military, and Coast Guard representatives from across the Caribbean addressing transnational crime, including human trafficking.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has made strong efforts to offer victims medical, psychological, legal, and social services, although law enforcement agents frequently treat unidentified victims as criminals. The Directorate of Gender Affairs receives funds to coordinate the work of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Coalition and to provide legal, health, advocacy, and crisis services which all victims of trafficking, foreign or local, can access. The Directorate established "Emergency Safe Havens," where the location of any victims of violence can be hidden from their victimizers, and recruited Spanish-speaking volunteers to assist with several cases of suspected abuse of foreign nationals. Other NGOs provide services such as health screening and assistance in repatriation. Some foreigners detained for immigration violations are likely trafficking victims. There are no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. The government does not encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes.

Despite limited resources and competing priorities, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has demonstrated strong efforts to prevent trafficking and increase the public’s awareness of trafficking. The government ran awareness campaigns, many in English and Spanish, in the form of anti-trafficking brochures and radio spots. The National Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons is made up of the Ministries of Social Welfare, Social Transformation, Health, Labor and Gender Affairs, Immigration, and the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, as well as various civil society groups, NGOs, and community activists and advocates. The Coalition, coordinated by the Directorate of Gender Affairs, meets at the end of every month to discuss suspected cases, formulate strategies to address them, and follow up with law enforcement to conduct investigations. The Coalition’s national action plan focuses on educating immigrants, the general public, and front-line workers on human trafficking; establishes a spokesperson to represent the Coalition; combines outreach and protection efforts with the Gender Affairs crisis hotline; and creates a legislative review of anti-trafficking laws and statutory instruments in Antigua and Barbuda. There have been no government programs to reduce demand for commercial sex during the reporting period. The government cooperates with other Caribbean countries via the Gender Affairs Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana, and contributes funds and personnel to the Advanced Passenger Information System, which allows law enforcement agencies to share information so suspected criminals, including human traffickers, will be investigated and detained at ports of entry. Antigua and Barbuda has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.