N Touch
Wednesday 24 July 2019
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The slaves amongst us

WE CALL on the authorities to continue to take the strongest action that discourages sex trafficking and other forms of modern-day slavery. The raids conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday were startling reminders of the proximity of this problem to our everyday life.

Reports suggest about two dozen young girls, between the ages of 15 and 19, were rescued. Police conducted raids at Ariapita Avenue, one of the capital’s busiest nightlife destinations, as well as in Curepe, another hub of activity. Other locations covered included several in Westmoorings, St James, and Diego Martin.

That these locations were of interest to law enforcement authorities in their pursuit of sex trafficking demonstrates the pervasive nature of the problem as well as the fact that nefarious activities can take place in even the busiest of places.

Nations all over the world are grappling with this problem which has multinational dimensions. In the UK, Theresa May’s government has recently selected a new anti-slavery commissioner to enforce laws in that country designed to disrupt the illicit trade. Yesterday, businesses in Australia were urged by Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott to use their purchasing power to uncover instances of slavery in their supply chains.

Trinidad and Tobago has been making slow but somewhat steady progress on this problem. First, there has been the operationalisation of relevant laws and instances of enforcement. But the more progress made, the greater the extent of the problem appears.

It was only last October that Colombian authorities revealed they had taken action in relation to a ring involving more than 100 girls, some of whom had been trapped for ten years. The Colombian attorney general’s office said the victims were promised work in Trinidad as waitresses, nurses or nannies, and salaries of $60,000 per month. They were transferred by land from Colombia to Guiria, Venezuela, then transported in boats to Trinidad where they were taken to a “commercial establishment in Port-of-Spain which had the appearance of a hotel.” There, they were stripped of their personal documents then exploited.

These international accounts suggest this country is not merely a transshipment point but also a significant stomping ground for people who facilitate and indulge in this trade. This should not be, and we welcome the moves by the authorities to bring it to an end soonest.

It is essential for the State to provide the victims rescued this week with the necessary support required to ensure their well-being. This means appropriate counselling and housing in facilities of a decent standard.

Very often, according to officials, traffickers use the threat of reporting the victims to deportation authorities as a means of control. Though the State must enforce relevant laws it should consider holding its hand in some instances. While officials should pay heed to the sensitivities involved in dealing with victims, they should not miss any opportunities to gather useful intelligence for the purpose of helping others who may still be trapped, and for eliminating this brutal and demeaning trade from our shores.

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