[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (Tier 2)    [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Trinidad and Tobago is a destination and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. In some instances, women and girls from Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and the Dominican Republic have been identified as trafficking victims in Trinidadian brothels and casinos. Last year the government identified five Colombian victims in the country; neighboring governments in Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname identified additional victims. Foreign victims, including women who voluntarily enter the country to engage in prostitution, may subsequently be trafficked after being deceived by unscrupulous recruiters about the true nature and conditions of their employment. Additional reporting suggests that men from China and Guyana may be trafficked to Trinidad and Tobago for labor exploitation in construction and other sectors. Trinidad and Tobago also is a transit point to Caribbean destinations such as Barbados and the Netherlands Antilles for traffickers and their victims.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, senior Trinidadian officials publicly condemned human trafficking, noting that the country is a destination point for trafficked persons. The government worked closely with IOM and other Caribbean governments to draft model anti-trafficking laws for the region, and to develop standards for victim repatriation and care. The government also increased anti-trafficking training for law enforcement, and collaborated with IOM on additional awareness-raising measures. However, vigorous government efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes under existing laws remained lacking, and adequate victim services were extremely limited.

Recommendations for Trinidad and Tobago: Enact legislation to prohibit all forms of human trafficking; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and to convict and sentence trafficking offenders; increase victim services and protection efforts, particularly for foreign victims; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; continue to increase anti-trafficking training and efforts to raise public awareness.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago demonstrated some progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. While Trinidad and Tobago has no specific laws prohibiting human trafficking, trafficking offenders could be prosecuted under trafficking-related offenses such as kidnapping, rape, or procuring a person for prostitution. Penalties for such crimes range from 15 years’ to life imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. Last year the government worked closely with IOM and neighboring countries to draft model anti-trafficking legislation for the Caribbean, and engaged experts from the Canadian High Commission to assist with writing an anti-trafficking law for Trinidad and Tobago. During the reporting period, the government achieved no prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of trafficking offenders. In past years, Trinidadian law enforcement have utilized proactive strategies such as brothel raids to enforce anti-prostitution laws and prosecute the owners of such establishments, though formal procedures to identify trafficking victims during such operations are not typically utilized. In partnership with IOM, the government provided anti-trafficking training to more than 1,500 law enforcement officers last year, and published reference guides for immigration and police personnel. No allegations of trafficking-related corruption were reported.

The Trinidadian government made limited efforts to assist trafficking victims during the reporting period, relying on international organizations and NGOs to provide care and services for identified victims. The government encouraged crime victims, including trafficking victims, to assist with the investigation and prosecution of offenders, and provided interpreters for non-English speaking complainants. Foreign victims were not eligible to receive government-provided services such as medical assistance, counseling, or legal assistance with filing a complaint. Moreover, the government did not employ formal procedures for identifying victims of sex or labor trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as prostituted women in brothels or foreign migrant workers. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; most foreign victims were detained and deported without being identified as trafficking victims. However, the government recently instituted a protocol where identified foreign trafficking victims are maintained in NGO safe houses until authorities in the victim’s home country can be contacted to assist with travel documents and repatriation. In January 2009, government immigration officials met with Colombian counterparts to discuss procedures for identifying and sheltering Colombian trafficking victims found in Trinidad and Tobago, and as well as their safe return to Colombia; the workshop occurred due to a 2007 brothel raid in which more than 70 Colombian nationals, some of whom were believed to be trafficking victims, were detained and deported for being in Trinidad and Tobago illegally.

In collaboration with international and local NGOs, the government increased its efforts to educate the public about the dangers of trafficking. Senior government officials condemned human trafficking publicly, and emphasized the need to protect victims. During 2008, law enforcement officers and an IOM expert on investigating and prosecuting sexual offenses conducted several raids of brothels where foreign women engage in prostitution, thus addressing demand for commercial sex acts by arresting and prosecuting “clients.” The ILO and the government distributed informational brochures on regional child labor and protection concerns such as slavery, debt bondage, child drug trafficking, prostitution, and trafficking children in the Caribbean. The government also enacted laws to keep children in school, and raised the working age from 14 to 16 as measures to prevent child labor. No additional efforts to reduce demand for adult forced labor were reported.