Notes from the Field – Adrian Alexander – Human Trafficking in the Caribbean

Adrian Alexander, Free the Slaves Advocacy and Movement Building Country Manager in Trinidad and Tobago shares his recent experiences advancing relationships across the Caribbean Region.
May 16, 2024

Notes from the Field – Adrian Alexander

Remote Working in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean: Insights and Collaborations

From April 2nd to 6th, 2024, following the Easter holiday, I embarked on a remote working trip to connect with regional leaders about human trafficking in the Caribbean, specifically Barbados and three islands in the Eastern Caribbean. The purposes of the visit were to promote the upcoming Freedom from Slavery Caribbean Regional Forum in Kingston Jamaica, highlight the value of the Alliance 8.7 Pathfinder Country initiative to those island states and meet with various stakeholders including local non-profits, government officials, and U.S. Embassy staff to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to human trafficking and disability rights in the region.

Engaging with stakeholders in Barbados
My discussions began with U.S. Embassy staff based in Barbados who covered that nation and other Eastern Caribbean states. They provided me with their assessment of the prevalence of and the response by the respective governments to combat human trafficking. In keeping with the theme for this year’s Caribbean Regional Forum, we discussed the role that culture plays in the equation whereby incidents which may be defined in international and some national laws as trafficking in persons or child sexual exploitation were being considered through a cultural lens as other social phenomena or lesser crimes, notwithstanding the publication of media reports of those unfortunate incidents. We also discussed the Alliance 8.7 Pathfinder Country initiative and the value it could bring to those island states that may apply.

I continued my discussions with Dr. Debra Joseph, then President of Soroptimist International Barbados (SIB) and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies. We delved into the current state of human trafficking prevalence and response, and the impact that public acknowledgement of the occurrence of such a crime may be perceived to have on small island states that are reliant on tourism as the mainstay of their economies.

Dr. Joseph suggested that our organization, Free the Slaves (FTS), could increase public awareness by partnering with local newspapers like the Nation and the Sun. She also recommended collaboration with the national association of social workers, who are deeply integrated within the local communities, to enhance grassroots efforts against human trafficking.

Initiatives and Discussions in Grenada
In Grenada, I was welcomed by Ms. Jacqueline Pascal, President of the Soroptimist International Caribbean Network (SICN). Our meetings included insightful discussions with local media representatives and government officials such as Mr. Elyan Purcell (Chief Immigration Officer, Ag.) about the Pathfinder Country initiative and enhancing visibility and action on human trafficking and gender-based violence. Ms. Jicinta Alexis from the Ministry of Social and Community Development expressed interest in FTS providing a Professional Development Workshop to align with the International Men’s Day and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Strengthening Law Enforcement and Education in St. Vincent
The highlight of my visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines was a meeting with law enforcement officers and educational leaders who are pivotal in anti-human trafficking efforts. The discussions underscored the importance of training for police recruits and the integration of human trafficking awareness into the school curriculum. Despite the challenges, such as a notable case of trafficking that ended in acquittal, there is a strong commitment to prevention and education. I was able to share with the police officers about the Pathfinder Country initiative and the role that culture can play in human trafficking in our region.

Challenges and Promises in Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia presented unique challenges due to travel delays, which limited direct interactions. However, a brief video call with Mr. Merphilus James, President of the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities, highlighted ongoing efforts to improve training and capacity building for organizations promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

The trip was not only a testament to the power of remote working but also highlighted the critical need for increased awareness of Alliance 8.7 and the Pathfinder Country process as few government or civil society stakeholders in the region – apart from ministries of labor – are familiar with this initiative. It also underscored the importance of strategic collaborations and robust interventions to combat human trafficking and support disability rights in the Caribbean. The insights gained and relationships forged during this visit will undoubtedly aid in shaping our approaches and initiatives in these islands.


Adrian Alexander

Advocacy and Movement Building Country Manager, Trinidad and Tabago

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