Prime Minister rejects trafficking in persons classification

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jun 26 – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has refuted the US State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report , in which St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.

The State Department put on its Tier Two Watch List countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

“We disagree very strongly with the designation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a source and destination for trafficking in persons,” Gonsalves said Tuesday.

According the US State department, Tier Two Watch list also means, “the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; [and] 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”.

 “The fact that we have not prosecuted anyone in the last year does not mean that we have not identified potential trafficking victims. We cannot prosecute an offender if there is no crime committed during the reporting period,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves made the statement at a ceremony in which U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Larry Palmer, handed over the U.S.-funded Coast Guard sub-base in Canouan to the government.

According to the Prime Minister, three human trafficking investigations were initiated this year, compared to five in 2013. “We can only arrest and charge if there is sufficient evidence to do so, and there is an independent office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and we continue to be very proactive in identifying any victim of trafficking and we carry out a widespread sensitisation programme.”

 “I really would like the relevant authorities in the United States of America to come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and rather than speaking to unnamed officials to speak to the people in the Anti-Trafficking Unit, to speak to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, so that any misunderstanding can be cleared up, because, like the United States, we are deeply committed to the fight against the trafficking in persons,” Gonsalves said.

In its Trafficking in Persons Report 2014, the State Department said St. Vincent and the  Grenadines is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

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