I WRITE to bring attention to the urgent need for a comprehensive migration policy in TT, particularly one that targets employment and combats prostitution and human trafficking among Venezuelan migrants.
Uncontrolled migration is a complex global issue that affects both sending and receiving countries. It can lead to various consequences, such as increased crime rates, social impact on migrants and host communities, and effects on education and job opportunities
The number of Venezuelan migrants in TT remains unclear, with estimates ranging from below 20,000 (government statistics) to 80,000/100,000 (other sources). The lack of clarity stemmed from the Rowley administration's failure to accept the immigration crisis from Venezuela early on, prioritising ongoing oil and gas negotiations with Caracas over addressing the issue.
As a consequence, we now witness men, women and children within the migrant population being forced to subject themselves to inhumane working conditions, prostitution, and with even child prostitution being commonplace. Moreover, the South American criminal element has entered the country, contributing to increases in missing people, beheadings and body mutilations as the heinous nature of crime increases.
Women and children migrants are at a higher risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. For instance, women and girls may be trafficked for prostitution, while children may be forced into begging or illegal labour activities. Migrant women and children may also face increased vulnerability to domestic violence and other forms of abuse as noted by article A/HRC/32/44 (report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants).
A well-designed migration policy can play a crucial role in managing targeted employment while addressing these challenges. One key strategy is creating regulated and flexible labour migration pathways. By providing legal channels for migrants to access the labour market, it reduces the likelihood of individuals engaging in risky, irregular migration, which often exposes them to exploitation.
The State can also establish bilateral agreements with Caracas to regulate labour migration and protect migrants' rights. Such agreements can include provisions for recruitment, training and job placement, education, healthcare, as well as measures to combat human trafficking and smuggling.
While TT is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we have no domestic legislation to enforce the tenets of the agreement. The CRC is a legally binding international treaty that outlines the rights of children, including the right to education.
Article 28 of the CRC states that all children have the right to education, and countries must ensure that primary education is compulsory and available free to all, while secondary education must be accessible and available to every child. The CRC applies to all children within a country's jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or migration status.
To address this issue, the Government could consider developing policies and strategies that facilitate the inclusion of Venezuelan migrant children in the local education system. This may involve providing language support, addressing discrimination and allocating resources to ensure schools can accommodate additional students. Collaboration with international organisations, such as UNICEF and UNESCO, could also support the development and implementation of such policies.
Providing potential migrants with accurate information about the migration process, legal channels and risks associated with irregular migration is crucial. Awareness campaigns can help individuals make informed decisions and avoid falling prey to human trafficking networks. Moreover, targeting host communities with these campaigns can challenge stereotypes and prejudices, which contribute to social exclusion and exploitation.
Enhanced screening and border control measures can help identify and protect potential victims of human trafficking. Training immigration and border control officers to recognise signs of trafficking and equipping them with the necessary tools to intervene is essential in preventing exploitation.
The State can also establish comprehensive support services for victims of human trafficking, including safe shelters, medical and psychological care, legal assistance and reintegration support. Special attention should be given to the needs of vulnerable groups, such as women and children. Additionally, the Parliament can bring “sanctuary” legislation to protect migrants from arrest and deportation when making criminal complaints to the police.
Facilitating migrants' integration into the labour market through skills development, recognition of qualifications and language training can improve their employability and reduce their vulnerability to exploitation. Providing job placement and career counselling services can help match migrants with suitable employment opportunities.
Strict enforcement of labour laws and anti-trafficking legislation is necessary to hold perpetrators accountable and deter exploitation. This includes monitoring labour conditions, investigating cases of abuse and providing appropriate penalties for those who violate the law.
Finally, engaging with various stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, international organisations and the private sector can help develop a comprehensive approach to addressing targeted employment, prostitution and human trafficking. Collaborative efforts can lead to more effective policies and interventions.
In conclusion, incorporating these strategies into migration policies can effectively manage targeted employment and reduce issues related to prostitution and human trafficking. By addressing these challenges, the Rowley government can protect the rights and well-being of migrants while promoting social and economic development.
Rushton Paray is the MP for Mayaro