Thursday, January 18, 2018

‘Human trafficking one of the worst forms of abuse’

‘Promoting Human Rights’


HIGHEST PROFIT: Alana Wheeler, deputy director, Counter Trafficking Unit at the Ministry of National Security.

Mark Fraser

HUMAN trafficking is one of the worst abuses of human rights and it is happening right here in Trinidad and Tobago, said Alana Wheeler, deputy director of the Counter Trafficking Unit at the Ministry of National Security.

From 2007 to present, there have been 42 cases of human trafficking in this country.

This statistic, said Wheeler, is not a true reflection of the extent of the problem.

Since the Counter Trafficking Unit was established last January, 12 persons have been reported as being victims of human trafficking.

The victims included men and women who have been trafficked to T&T for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Many of these victims are from the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Colombia and Venezuela.

Wheeler revealed this information at a panel discussion on the theme, “Promoting Human Rights”, at the office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Chancery Lane, Port of Spain on Tuesday afternoon.

Thus far, there have been no reports of children being trafficked, nor have there been any reports of organ trafficking or of sweat shops operating in Trinidad and Tobago.

But there are cases of forced labour in business places in this country.

Many of the cases that have come to the attention of the unit involve young victims, but there are cases of older women in their 40s and 50s who have been trafficked to Trinidad and forced into a life of domestic servitude, said Wheeler.

“Some of these victims have been told they cannot eat food from the kitchen, they are given scraps or bones or Crix. They are told they cannot contact any of their relatives unless it is a supervised phone call. They are not allowed to leave the premises unless they are accompanied by someone,” said Wheeler.

Travel and identification documents are also taken away.

Human trafficking also has the highest profit of all the crimes committed, said Wheeler.

“You can sell a pound of cocaine and that’s a one-off sale. You take an individual and put that individual in a brothel and you put them to work for you for one week and every night you can actually sell them ten, 20 or 50 times per night, so you multiply ten, 20 or 50 by, if it’s $300 a half hour for a service, that is at least $3,000 per night that you make on one person.

“You sell them for seven nights a week, multiply that seven by 3,000 and in one week you will make $21,000 on one person.

“That is the profitability of human trafficking and that is why it is often said that it (trafficking) has the highest profits of all the crimes committed and this happens in Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.

Many of the victims of human trafficking are also victims of domestic violence, poverty and sexual abuse in the home who are seeking a better life elsewhere.

They are often trafficked by people who they know and who use deception to entrap their victims.

The Counter Trafficking Unit has a large mandate which includes prosecuting the crime, investigating the cases, collecting data, submitting reports to Parliament, and preparing reports for local, regional and international organisations.

Victims of human trafficking have rights, said Wheeler, they are entitled to victim compensation and they are entitled to have translation services provided for them.

“They are entitled to regularise their immigration status—many of them are illegal immigrants—once they are identified as a victim of trafficking. They cannot be detained or held at police stations once they have been identified as a victim,” she said.