Antigua and Barbuda upgraded on Human Trafficking Watch List

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This country’s efforts in combating human trafficking within its borders have been recognised by the United States Department of State in its Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, which has upgraded the twin island state to Tier 2. 
The annual Report places countries around the globe into four broad categories: Tier One; Tier Two; Tier Two Watchlist; and Tier Three with Tier One being the optimum classification and Tier Three, the worst.
In the 2017 Report, Antigua and Barbuda was on the Tier Two Watchlist. But in the 2018 report states that the government “is making significant efforts” to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
According to a release from the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Public Safety and Labour, the 2018 Report states that “the government [of Antigua and Barbuda] demonstrated increasing efforts by conducting more investigations and improving victim identification, conducting its first trafficking raid, establishing a new trafficking unit to coordinate and expedite efforts across the government, tripling its budget for combating trafficking, creating new agreements with government agencies to improve coordination and victim protection, and developing a new trafficking database to better track cases”.
Attorney General, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, said that he is not surprised at the country’s achievements “as we have worked hard over the past year”.
He elaborated: “We’ve worked very hard on this matter and we are determined to do even better to get a higher ranking.  It shows that our government is committed and we have put in more funds and have established a unit which has worked extremely well in the past to make sure that Antigua and Barbuda comes from the grey area to Tier 2.”
The Report notes that the government increased both its victim protection and prevention efforts. It also noted that the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Secretariat is a “new working-level anti-trafficking unit within the [Ministry of Public Safety and Labour ] National Security, which comprises a victim care and support officer, an administrative assistant, an accounts officer, a communications officer, and a filing clerk. Authorities noted the unit improved coordination and efficiency of response efforts to trafficking”.
Continuing its mandate to fight human trafficking, the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee has embarked on updating its National Action Plan to up the year 2020. Agency specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) are also being drafted in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Jamaica.  The Committee, Task Forces and Secretariat are committed to continuing  to partner with local, regional and international organisations to further the fight against human trafficking.
However, the 2018 Report pointed to some concerns about Antigua and Barbuda. It has recommended, among other things, vigorous investigating and prosecuting of “cases of sex trafficking and forced labour and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials; increasing efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations, such as migrants and individuals in commercial sex”.  
Benjamin, who is also the minister of Legal Affairs, Justice, Public Safety and Labour, has declared a willingness to   make amendments to the law “to make it even stricter than it was before”. According to him, the government is vigilant and “we must change the law to suit the situation as they arise from time to time”.
Chairperson of the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Committee and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Safety, and Labour, Stacey Gregg-Paige commended the work of the committee and task force members during 2017.
She expressed gratitude to all the businesses and organisations that partnered with the committee throughout the year.  She said that while the upgrade was something that was hard earned, the work will continue in earnest.

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