St Vincent classified as tier 2 in latest trafficking in persons report

WASHINGTON, USA — The US Department of State has released its 2013 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, in which St Vincent and the Grenadines is classified as a Tier 2 country.

According to the classifications defined in the report, countries under Tier 2 are those which do not fully comply with the minimum standards prescribed by the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), but are making significant efforts into bringing themselves into compliance.

Only 30 countries — mainly western countries — were designated as Tier 1 countries in the 2013 report. The other classifications in the report are Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 3, the least favourable classifications.

The TIP report reflects the progress made by the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the fight against trafficking in persons over the years. Indeed, the government regards the report as a more accurate reflection of the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines, compared to past reports, which classified the country as Tier 2 Watch List.

In spite of this year’s overall favourable report, there are some aspects that are of concern to government officials as being inaccurate or unfounded. While recognizing the commendable progress made by the government, the report asserts that St Vincent and the Grenadines is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking victims.

While the report praises the country for investigating potential trafficking cases, it laments the fact that no prosecutions were made. This is one aspect of the report which has gotten the attention of St Vincent and the Grenadines ambassador in Washington, La Celia Prince, who criticizes the report as “prescribing solutions for problems that do not exist”.

Prince noted that in previous meetings with the State Department’s Trafficking Unit, she made it clear that the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has confidence in the legal process so that if an investigation is conducted which concludes that elements of trafficking are not substantiated in the case, then there can be no prosecution.

“In my view, the report practically begs the trumping up of charges. It notes that there were no reports of public officials complicit in human trafficking offenses, as though this were an expected outcome of the investigations. This is one of the things that the United States looks for when writing their reports and we have registered our alarm to the Department of State that their reports are predicated on the assumption that trafficking takes place in all countries and that there are always high-level officials involved. That is quite simply not the case,” Prince concluded.

In releasing the 2013 report, US Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed that the United States will continue its leadership in fighting Trafficking In Persons.

“Ending modern slavery must remain a foreign policy priority”, stated Kerry.

The references to “modern day slavery” when speaking of the growing crime of Trafficking In Persons is something which has long caught the attention of Caribbean diplomats in Washington.

For her part, Prince acknowledged that, while human trafficking is a terrible crime, the use of the word ‘slavery’ can have the effect of obscuring the extent of the egregiously wrong practice of slavery of Africans.

“I dare not refer to human trafficking as slavery,” she said. “Human trafficking is a terrible thing. But it is a crime that corrals global support in fighting against it. This in no way compares to the enslavement of millions of people through the regime of slavery that was institutionalized and protected by the law for four centuries.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has been playing a leadership role within the Caribbean Community, for a campaign calling on western countries that built their nations on slavery and the slave trade, to issue reparations as a means of redress and atonement for this crime.

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