The new directors at the Ministry of National Security's (MoNS) Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) say technology and victim care will be their priorities as they "tackle the scourge of human trafficking."
Director Allan Meiguel and deputy director W/Cpl Dane-Marie Marshall gave the insight into their plans as they addressed national security colleagues, ambassadors, United Nations officials and other stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking for the first time since their appointment earlier this month.
They highlighted their plans to address several issues listed as “priority recommendations” in the United States (US) Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report on TT including better victim care and victim accommodation services, improved co-operation among national agencies and bodies, and a greater number of cases leading to trials.
The duo assumed leadership of the CTU on January 11, 2024 replacing former director Samantha Chaitram.
Meiguel praised his predecessors for the “comprehensive” work they did over the years to develop TT’s response to trafficking in persons.
“Our inquiry also led us to a well-documented, established standard operating procedures which is outlined in the form of a route map, the process to be followed when a potential case of trafficking arrives.”
He said while “there was no need for the reinvention of the wheel,” there are things he plans to improve including the technology available to the organisation.
Meiguel said he is working towards the implementation of case management software on a digital platform and hoped to achieve this with the assistance of stakeholders.
“That is where I'm pushing all the partners who I've had conversations with. They know when it comes to this, I'm pushing really, really hard.”
He said the digital platform will store tips, aid in analytical and predictive policing and help to manage victims’ case files.
“It will contain court orders and victim care and outreach programmes. It will allow us to update and track information between all our partners. It will allow for the generation of reports and analysis so as to identify trends leading to predictive enforcement. It will build operational capacity and assist in the preparation of the case files.
He said talks are already underway between the International Organisation for migration, the CTU, the IT department at the ministry and Canadian system developers to determine if such a system can be produced.
Meiguel said there also plans to strengthen the administrative structure within the CTU.
He said a draft cabinet note with job descriptions and a proposed organisational chart is ready to be submitted but gave no timeline.
He also revealed the CTU is set to be relocated from their “small and cramped” office to a location which can accommodate the organisation’s growth.
“The Ministry of National Security is way ahead and has stepped out to ensure that we have better accommodation and more fit for purpose for the job that we do within that accommodation. I have already identified one room which is earmarked to be outfitted with audio-visual recording to conduct witness and victim interviews.”
He said talks are also underway to introduce CTU outreach programmes.
Marshall meanwhile emphasised the importance of victim care assistance within the CTU.
She said said it is necessary to strengthen the CTU’s administrative staffing in that area to provide comprehensive support to victims and survivors.
“Elevating the safety and security of those affected by trafficking will not only empower them, but also significantly increase their willingness to participate in court proceedings, ultimately boosting our convictions rate.”
She praised the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services and the UN’s International Organisation of Migration (IOM) for “recognising the importance of victim care” by establishing migrant shelters in strategic locations across TT.
“This initiative is the result of a concerted effort to create comprehensive support systems for victims of trafficking, ensuring that their safety, well-being and eventual reintegration into society.”
She said the shelters serve as “sanctuaries” for people who have endured the horrors of human trafficking.
“Beyond providing a secure and supportive environment, trafficking survivors often face a myriad of challenges and it is our collective responsibility to address not only their immediate needs, but also to empower them for sustainable and dignified future.”
She pointed to the collaboration as an example of the power of the collective action in addressing crime.
IOM head Jewel Ali congratulated the duo on their appointment and pledged to continue supporting the CTU.
“It is evident that they have hit the ground running. My staff has been supporting them with the transition and I continue to be impressed with their expertise, experience and most importantly, their openness, passion and care.”