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Ambassador La Celia Prince says Vincentian diplomats in the United States are “disappointed” by St. Vincent's latest human trafficking listings.

WASHINGTON, USA — The United States has for a third consecutive year placed St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on a Tier 2 human trafficking watch list, subjecting the multi-island nation to U.S. sanctions.

But while the State Department says SVG “is a likely source, transit, and destination country for some children and adults subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking”, Kingstown’s ambassador to Washington, La Celia Prince, has told I Witness-News that Vincentian embassy officials “are very disappointed by the report”.

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Prince said that placing SVG on a Tier 2 watch list three years in a row cannot be justified, adding that the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports two years ago “started off with ‘anecdotal accounts’ — according to them and they are still unable to point to any hard cases of trafficking in persons in SVG”.

She said the reports “lack transparency and their methodology for compiling the data is unclear.

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“Indeed, it is still not known how they determine which countries to report on because there are some countries — including some from CARICOM — that they omit from the report each year!”

Prince further said that Kingstown has engaged with the State Department at all levels and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) “as a whole has also registered its strong denunciation of the reports since, in most cases, the claims cannot be substantiated”.

She said that Vincentian diplomats in Washington has had several meetings with State Department officials and has facilitated workshops and other meetings to build awareness about TIP in SVG.

“In the case of the 2011 report on SVG, the United States acknowledges on the one hand that the government of SVG has been working on building awareness of the issue, yet we have been slapped with the disgraceful listing of a Tier 2 Watch List country,” Prince said.

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She said that her own sense is that the United Sates “does not ascribe enough significance to SVG’s various domestic legislation which can treat with the issue of trafficking in persons.

“Rather, they promote a comprehensive legislation which has not been adopted in SVG,” she added.

Prince acknowledged that the Department of Justice has its mandate to report to Congress on TIP but said she believes that “a multilateral evaluation process that is transparent will be more useful than this unilateral and somewhat high-handed process”.

The most recent TIP report, released late June says, “sufficient information on human trafficking in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is lacking, as there are no formal government structures to identify it or NGOs to address human trafficking specifically”.

However, the report says, “According to NGOs and officials, there exists a social taboo of discussing the matter openly.”

CARICOM leaders at their summit meeting in St. Kitts “emphasized once again their strong commitment to combating the crime of trafficking in persons, underlining that they have adopted and implemented policies of prevention, prosecution and victim protection in their respective Member States,” according to a communiqué at the end of the meeting on Monday.

Leaders also “reiterated their deep concern” that the United States continues to place several CARICOM nation on either Tier 2 or the Tier 2 Watchlist, noting that countries that are placed on the Tier 2 Watchlist for three successive years will be subject to sanctions by the USA”.

Tier 2 Watch List

Tier 2 Watch List comprises nations “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,” according to the State Department.

The State Department said that in Tier 2 Watch List nations, the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing.

It further says that in these countries, there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.

In addition, the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the 
next year.

Other countries on the Tier 2 Watchlist include the Bahamas, Barbados, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and China.

Force labour, sex trafficking

The State Department says “forced labour may result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by high rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, or cultural acceptance of the practice”.

It says that while immigrants are particularly vulnerable, individuals also may be forced into labour in their own countries and that female victims of forced labour, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well.

The States Department further says, “When an adult is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution – or maintained in prostitution through coercion – that person is a victim of trafficking”.

It says “all of those involved in recruiting, transporting, harbouring, receiving, or obtaining the person for that purpose have committed a trafficking crime”.