Human Trafficking is nothing more than a modern day Slave Trade and it exists as a very serious problem in Trinidad & Tobago.
According to an investigation done by one media house, women from Venezuela, Colombia, Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic are brought here illegally thinking they would get work as a waitress or secretary only to end up being forced into prostitution or indentured labor.
The Director of the Counter-Trafficking Unit in the National Security Ministry, Alana Wheeler stated that most of the cases of human trafficking in T&T have been related to sexual exploitation.
She also claimed that in December 2017, there was reported human trafficking happening in Tobago, particularly with Venezuelan women being brought in the island to engage in sexual activity with local men.
In June 2017, the US State Department gave our country an improved ranking in its Annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Trinidad & Tobago moved from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2; the latter are countries whose governments, while not having fully met the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, are making significant efforts to do so.
Even though it is a common belief in T&T that most missing or kidnapped persons are cases of human trafficking, Ms. Wheeler stated that no missing person has ever found to have become the victim of human-trafficking in T&T.
According to her report, an average of 10 to 15 cases of human trafficking are identified annually in the country.
But what US Department of State has to say about it?
As reported over the past five years, Trinidad and Tobago is a destination, transit, and source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.
Women and girls from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Colombia are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels and clubs, often lured by offers of legitimate employment. Because of deteriorating economic conditions in their home country, Venezuelans are particularly vulnerable.
LGBTI persons are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Many trafficking victims enter the country legally via Trinidad’s international airport, while others appear to enter illegally via small boats from Venezuela, which is only seven miles offshore.
The government reports seeing more labor traffickers from the same country of origin as their victims. Migrants from the Caribbean region and from Asia, in particular those lacking legal status, are vulnerable to forced labor in domestic service and the retail sector. Corruption in police and immigration has in the past been associated with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking.
Human trafficking is very real. Someone’s son, daughter, friend or baby is being targeted as we discuss this. It does not matter where the victims are from, whether they are from Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia or China every person carries the same blood in their veins, we are all human beings.
Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Any of us (or any of our family members) could be a victim of human trafficking. Therefore, it is within our responsibility as citizens in this country to look after one another.
What makes this type of crime unique is that often times it is hidden in plain sight but there are always red flags to look for in a victim. Please keep your eyes well open, being observant is a precious skill we should develop in order to protect ourselves and to be able to help others.
The following is a list of some characteristics portrayed by victims of human trafficking:
- Avoids eye contact and appears to avoid social interaction.
- Looks untidy, often times dirty and malnourished.
- Bruises are noticeable as well as other physical signs of abuse.
- Appears to have branding or tattoos on certain parts of the body (neck, back)
- Seems afraid, depressed, withdrawn, anxious or paranoid.
- Works excessively long or unusual hours.
- Sexualized behaviour.
- Have limited freedom of movement.
- Afraid of the police/authority.
- Have no passport of personal documents.
If you suspect someone is being a victim of human trafficking, please contact the Counter-Trafficking Unit (CTU) Hotline: 800-4288.
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