AuthorVogel, Kathleen M.


This chapter examines trends in human trafficking in the Caribbean and African islands over the past five years, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as documented in the US Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report (2016-2021). The countries examined include Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean region and Cabo Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania (Zanzibar), and Guinea-Bissau in Africa. This chapter examines what countries in these two regions have accomplished in the areas of prosecution of traffickers, victim protection, and prevention activities and discusses the challenges and shortcomings in the anti-trafficking efforts of these island countries. Also discussed are the common elements--as well as differences--across these regions that facilitate successes and failures in combating human trafficking. The chapter ends by discussing the role of the Trafficking in Persons Report in its contribution to these island countries' efforts to combat trafficking, as well as what policy recommendations, capacity-building initiatives, and cross-regional collaborations could be launched to address their collective trafficking problems.


The 2000 United Nations (UN) "Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children" (hereafter referred to as the "Palermo Protocol"), which supplemented the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, was the first international instrument to define human trafficking and provided the legal foundation for governments to develop domestic laws, policies, and programs to criminalize and prevent human trafficking and protect victims. (1) To date, 178 parties have ratified the Palermo Protocol, including all island countries in the Caribbean and most in Africa; Comoros has not acceded to the Protocol. (2) Countries that ratify or accede to the Protocol agree to adopt domestic laws that establish criminal offenses against human trafficking, implement measures to assist and protect victims, and prevent trafficking in persons, as well as cooperate among States Parties. (3)

In the United States, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in October 2000, which established the US Department of States Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP). (4) The TIP Office was given the mandate to create the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (hereafter referred to as the TIP Report) to describe and assess government efforts to combat human trafficking, focused on the standards of prosecution, protection, and prevention set out in the Palermo Protocol. From 2001 to 2021, the number of countries included and ranked in the TIP Report grew to 188 countries and territories. (5) In preparing the annual TIP Report, the TIP Office collects information from US embassies, foreign governments, nongovernmental and international organizations, and academic studies, press reports, and other open sources. The TIP Office coordinates with other offices in the State Department, as well as the US interagency, to produce the TIP Report.

In the TIP Report, the State Department places each country in one of four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), as mandated by the TVPA. The State Department assesses foreign-government anti-trafficking efforts in the areas of prosecution (law enforcement/judicial efforts), victim protection, and prevention activities. (6) The Tier rankings in the TIP Report consist of the following: (7)

* Tier 1: Countries whose governments fully meet the TVPA's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

* Tier 2: Countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA's minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

* Tier 2 Watch List: Countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA's minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards and for which (a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; (b) 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; or (c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.

* Tier 3: Countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA's minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. According to the TVPA, countries in Tier 3 may be subject to certain restrictions on US assistance.

The TVPA, as amended, lists additional factors to determine whether a country should be on Tier 2 (or Tier 2 Watch List), as opposed to Tier 3 (8): the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking; the extent to which the country's government does not meet the TVPA's minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking; reasonable measures that the government would need to undertake to be in compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government's resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons; the extent to which the government is devoting sufficient budgetary resources to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, convict and sentence traffickers, and obtain restitution for victims of human trafficking; and the extent to which the government is devoting sufficient budgetary resources to protect victims and prevent the crime from occurring.

Tier rankings are not based on the size of the country's human trafficking problem but on the extent of each individual government's efforts to meet the TVPA's minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking that are consistent with standards in the Palermo Protocol. Countries that are State Parties to the Palermo Protocol, therefore, should aim to meet the minimum standards in order to fulfill their commitments to the Protocol. While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem but rather indicates that a government has increased its efforts to address its trafficking problem to the TVPA's minimum standards. Tier rankings are reassessed each year, based on the country's efforts compared to the previous year; the country may increase, decrease, or maintain its tier ranking. Countries are not compared against other countries but rather to their own efforts of the previous year. The 2021 TIP Report covers government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021 (for prior years, the reporting period is from April 1 to March 31). It is useful to note that the 2021 reporting period was the critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world. The next section discusses the general impacts of the pandemic worldwide (including within the Caribbean and African regions discussed in this chapter).


In general, the TIP Report has observed that as more people have experienced economic and social vulnerabilities from the effects of the pandemic, this has likely increased the potential likelihood of human trafficking, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized populations. (9) Some key issues that have been observed include the following: (1) survivors of trafficking faced an increased risk of potential revictimization due to financial and emotional hardships during the crisis; (2) COVID-19 mitigation efforts, such as stay-at-home orders and travel limitations, increased rates of gender-based violence and substance abuse, both of which put individuals at a higher risk of exploitation by human traffickers; (3) low-wage and migrant workers, as well as those in the informal economy, faced riskier employment conditions, including restricted movement, minimal oversight mechanisms, withheld wages, and increased debts--all indicators or flags for human trafficking; (4) traffickers targeted families experiencing financial difficulties, making false promises and fraudulent job offers to recruit their children, while other families exploited or sold their children to traffickers to financially support themselves; and (5) traffickers capitalized on the reduced capacity and shifting priorities of law enforcement, resulting in greater anonymity and impunity to pursue their crimes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted anti-trafficking efforts by creating pressures on competing priorities and reducing the capacity and resources for identifying, combatting, and managing cases of human trafficking across the region. (10) For example, some key items identified in the TIP Report country narratives are worth pointing out: (1) governments faced the predicament of shifting priorities to focus on growing health and economic concerns, which drew attention and resources away from anti-trafficking efforts; (2) stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions made it more difficult for frontline officials to protect individuals through proper identification and screening techniques, leaving officials to rely on victims to self-identify during the pandemic--which already rarely occurs; (3) nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported significant funding cuts due to COVID-19, which forced some to halt all assistance or cancel certain...

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