Press release: Antigua and Barbuda upgraded to Tier 2 Human on Trafficking Watch List

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Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts in removing the scourge of human trafficking from the country has been recognised by the United States Department of State.  A welcomed improvement from the last few years, the country has been upgraded to Tier 2 in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2018.  
The 2018 instalment of the 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”.
Hon. Steadroy Cutie Benjamin, Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, Justice, Public Safety and Labour said that he is not surprised at the country’s achievements as we have worked hard over the past year.  He said “We’ve worked very hard on this matter and we are determined to do even better to get a higher ranking.  Its 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.  The Report highlighted the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Secretariat as a “new working-level anti-trafficking unit within the [Ministry of Public Safety and Labour ] National Security, which comprised of 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 International Organization for Migration (IOM) Jamaica.  The Committee, Task Forces and Secretariat are committed to continue to partner with local, regional and international organisations to further the fight against human trafficking.
The 2018 Report does raise some concerns about Antigua and Barbuda and recommendations include vigorously investigating and prosecuting “cases of sex trafficking and forced labour and convict and punish traffickers, including complicit officials; increase efforts to identify victims through proactive screening of vulnerable populations, such as migrants and individuals in commercial sex”.  Minister Benjamin stated that he “intends if necessary to go back to Parliament in the very near future to make amendments to [the law] to make it even stricter than it was before.  The government is vigilant, 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 Mrs. Stacey Gregg-Paige commended the work of Committee and Task Force members during 2017 and 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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