A media report of a Venezuelan female being allegedly raped by a member of the Coast Guard is being investigated but, so far, inquiries at the migrant facility at the Chaguaramas Heliport where she was detained have revealed no evidence of such, said Ministry of National Security officials at a briefing on Sunday.
"No sexual exploitation was disclosed at that location," said Sr Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne, head of the Special Victims Department of the police service.
Senior immigration officer Laura Ramcharitar said the woman was first held in a Freeport bar on March 27 as an illegal immigrant without documents and then sent to the Heliport. Relating an interview of the woman, Ramcharitar said she had admitted to illegally entering TT, adding, "No trafficking indicators would have been exhibited."
Later, on April 4, she could not be accounted for during a headcount at the facility and was deemed missing. A report was made to the police.
Her boyfriend, in a social media post on April 6, had alleged she was being abused while at the Heliport.
The matter was referred to the Special Victims Department, which began inquiries.
The police then found her at a Chaguanas bar on May 26 after which she was sent to the Immigration Detention Centre and then into the care of the Counter Trafficking Unit, Ramcharitar said.
Guy-Alleyne said CoP Erla Harewood-Christopher had asked her to inquire about any alleged misconduct at the heliport, which she then visited with a team of officers.
"Several persons were interviewed and certain information was disclosed.
"No sexual exploitation was disclosed at that location." At that visit Guy-Alleyne was told of the woman having missed the previous headcount.
"She was later found by the Chaguanas Police and handed over the immigration and CTU, where she is safe."
Guy-Alleyne said, "We are conducting an active investigation to get the facts and evidence. If the allegations are true, persons who the allegations are made against would be brought to justice and the law can take its process."
The woman still remained under the care of the CTU, said Chaitaram.
Ministry attorney Charles Peter Mitchell said National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds was aware of court proceedings in this matter plus the grant of an order.
"The ministry and the minister by extension will do all that is required for this matter to be properly ventilated in the courts."
Replying to reporters questions, Guy-Alleyne said the helicopter facility now has three men, 35 women and no children, but gave no details of their guard detail.
Newsday asked about no reports at the heliport of sexual exploitation.
Guy-Alleyne replied, "There were migrants at that location and all of the migrants were interviewed and no sexual exploitation was disclosed to the police at this point in time." Newsday asked if the migrants were given safeguards such as privacy to be able to talk freely to police investigators without fear of victimisation by those guarding them.
She said, "Yes. We took a lot of safeguards. They were taken to a room at that station where they had the confidentiality to speak to us. There was an interpreter as well. We interviewed those persons and we assured them, 'Here's what – we are law enforcement and we are here for you, and we are asking you to give us any information that you may have, of any misconduct or any criminal activity taking place on the premises.'"
Newsday asked if migrants could access a state-sponsored advocate in these type of situations.
She said a migrant or local was allowed to have any advocate of their choice present.
Guy-Alleyne said certain media headlines on such issues could have a retrograde effect on police work.
"Whenever victims or survivors of sexual or physical exploitation see these things plastered in the media, it puts a very negative effect on the law enforcement investigation and very little or nothing would be disclosed.
"We have to be more victim-centred whenever we are dealing with matters of this nature and this sensitivity."
Newsday asked if the protective services have firm codes of conduct for male officers interacting with females, amid general complaints in TT of unwanted attention. Guy-Alleyne said everyone was governed by the laws of TT and each organisation also has its codes of conduct.
While saying the TTPS was not a perfect organisation, she urged exploitation victims to come forward to make their reports.
"You will be offered psychosocial reports and all the services so you can feel comfortable to be able to disclose exactly what is happening to you.
"You see, when we create an atmosphere when victims and survivors do not feel comfortable to come forward, we have these heinous crimes being perpetrated over and over again.
"For the media, every citizen, law enforcement, all hands must be on deck. We must treat these things that are sensitive with the level of sensitivity, confidentiality, and respect that persons deserve, so that perpetrators, once these allegations are being made... Let us be able to gather the evidence and put these perpetrators behind bars."