Saturday, December 16, 2017

US names Trini among trafficking-in-persons heroes

Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Counter-Trafficking Unit, Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, has been named one of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes by the United States Department of State.

US Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement yesterday as he released the 2014 TIP Report.

Gandhi-Andrews, who is in Washington to receive the award, said: “Our work has only just begun, but we are committed to the fight against human trafficking and will continue to work with the tenacity with which we started to end human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Each year, the Department of State honours individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals are non-government organisation (NGO) workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery.

They are recognised for their tireless efforts–despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives–to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.

A statement issued by the US Embassy in Port of Spain said as the first-ever director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Counter-Trafficking Unit at the Ministry of National Security, Gandhi-Andrews fundamentally changed the way the Government responds to the problem of human trafficking.

“Ms Gandhi-Andrews was for several years a leading and outspoken advocate for human trafficking legislation, which the Government ultimately implemented in January 2013. Largely due to her tireless efforts, Trinidad and Tobago now has an infrastructure in place to recognise, identify, and support victims.”

The statement said in the first year she led more than 20 investigations into suspected trafficking cases, resulting in charges filed against 12 alleged traffickers–including government officials–and uncovered a dangerous network of criminal gangs facilitating human trafficking in the Caribbean region.

In 2013, the Counter-Trafficking Unit hosted more than 20 presentations and workshops, designed to educate law enforcement, non-governmental organisations, the legal community, and students about human trafficking.

The US Embassy statement said Gandhi-Andrews, now the Deputy Chief Immigration Officer, in a short few years, has become the public face of anti-trafficking efforts in T&T, shifting the national dialogue so that it now embraces proactive efforts to combat trafficking in persons.

“As a result of these efforts, Trinidad and Tobago was upgraded from the Watch List of the report to a Tier 2 ranking. The report points out that ‘the Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so’.”

The report lists a number of recommendations, including the need for the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago to “prosecute cases investigated under the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Act and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including Government officials complicit in human trafficking”.

It also wants the authorities to “devote adequate resources to the anti-trafficking unit to carry out its mandate in the investigation of trafficking crimes and the identification and protection of victims; develop a national action plan to address law enforcement efforts, victim care, and interagency co-ordination related to human trafficking crimes”. —CMC