By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
Tomorrow, July 30, the world will observe World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Around the world, human traffickers continue to exploit people for profit, and to violate their human rights. Pope Francis rightly says that human trafficking is “an open wound on the body of humanity…a crime against humanity and a form of slavery which is unfortunately increasingly widespread; it involves every country, even the most developed, and touches the most vulnerable people in society: women and young girls, children, the disabled, the most poor [sic], whoever comes from situations of familial or social disintegration. We need a common responsibility and a stronger political will to succeed on this front” (February 12, 2018).
The UN states that: “Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sexual exploitation…” and currently there are millions of trafficked victims in the world.
“Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Additionally, women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims, the report states,” the UN statement on the context of the day continued.
Here in T&T we have a Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 and a Counter-Trafficking Unit, but we are yet to convict a trafficker.
In the US Department of State’s June 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, Trinidad and Tobago is listed as Tier 2. This year’s report “focuses on effective ways local communities can address human trafficking proactively and on how national governments can support and empower them. Local communities are the most affected by this abhorrent crime and are also the first line of defense against human trafficking”.
The report states that: “The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so…However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government experienced continued delays in prosecutions and had yet to secure a conviction under its anti-trafficking law. The government decreased the amount of funding for victim services. The government did not have policies or laws regulating foreign labour recruiters.”
Read the report regarding the situation here. Inter alia, it states that T&T is “a destination, transit, and source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. 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.…Migrants from the Caribbean region and from Asia, in particular those lacking legal status, are vulnerable to forced labour in domestic service and the retail sector. Corruption in police and immigration has in the past been associated with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking.”
The report lists some helpful recommendations that the country can adopt relating to prosecution, protection, and prevention of trafficking. If we are to adopt co-ordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge, we also have to address the deficiencies highlighted in the report.
There is much that you and I can do to play our part to counter trafficking, and to protect and rehabilitate victims. Make note of and use the toll-free counter-trafficking unit’s hotline to report suspected human trafficking cases (800-4288/800-4CTU).
Archbishop Gordon has established an Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees, which falls within the remit of CCSJ, and includes Living Water Community, Rochelle Nakhid and Fr Simon Peter. The team is working to establish a Ministry for Migrants and Refugees in each parish and to raise the nation’s awareness of the vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees to human trafficking.
Let’s open our hearts to welcome the stranger and to protect all those who may be victims of trafficking.
Pope Francis said: “Everyone who has been a victim of trafficking is an inexhaustible source of support for new victims, and very important informational resources for saving many other youth. Young people who have encountered organised crime can play a key role in describing its dangers…I ask you…to work in favour of opening to the other, above all when they are wounded in their own dignity…arresting the traffickers is a duty of justice. But the true solution is the conversion of hearts, cutting off the demand and drying up the market.”