Reprinted from Trinidad Express
Venezuela, Colombia and Dominican Republic are three of the six major countries from which people are trafficked to Trinidad and Tobago.
Alana Wheeler, director, Counter Human Trafficking Unit, Ministry of National Security, shared this information at the 37th Annual Crime Stoppers International Conference at Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s, last Tuesday.
Wheeler also said it was important to apply the four Ps—Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnerships— in the fight against human trafficking.
Among those present were president of Crime Stoppers International Alexander MacDonald and deputy director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOC) Gillian Murray.
The theme was Anonymous Reporting In The Digital Age. Wheeler spoke during session six which looked at the work of various organisations and discussed areas of collaboration in order to achieve greater impact with regard to reduction of human trafficking.
She also said it was important not to “lump Trinidad and Tobago with the rest of Latin America, and, to consider its subtle cultural differences.” Wheeler identified Icacos, Southern Trinidad, as one of the main ports of entry. The audience was also treated to snatches of a skit “Trafficked” and a movie Moving Parts, which aimed at sensitising people to human trafficking.
Wheeler said: “Some of the victims are from six countries — Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic and the second largest group are from Guyana. We have noticed a number of Colombians are coming in. A lot of the Guyanese are in domestic servitude. We get a lot of people being trafficked from Latin America. Those from Latin America face a lot of sexual exploitation. There isn’t a one-size fit. It depends on the region and the cultural differences. Trinidad and Tobago’s situation is quite unique to the region.”
Apply the Four Ps
Then Wheeler made reference to the four Ps—prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.
Wheeler said: “If you go to a brothel and you find people there illegally, you tend to charge all the women as prostitutes. Nobody is taking the time to ask the Colombian women why and how they ended up there. Not all of them are there by choice. Prosecution is not always the solution. Restoration and reintegration are necessary for the survivors. If there is not attempt at restoration they remain with the ‘victim mentality’.”
Wheeler said it was necessary to have a spiritual intervention as part of the healing process.
“If restoration is not addressed, they could end up being the victim of another type of crime. Many communities lack resources. They do not have the resources to deal with the four Ps.”
Wheeler lauded the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are able to reach the victims, better than law enforcement officials.
“It is important to protect the rights of the victims, their families, and their cases,” she said.
She also said there was legislation to convict corrupt police officers and sentence them to 25 years’ imprisonment.
Wheeler said: “It (corrupt police officers) is the ‘elephant in the room’.” But it needs to be addressed.
Moving to the issue of partnerships, she said: “We have partnered with Venezuela, Colombia and the United Kingdom. Due to the work we have been doing, we have been able to get it sensitised. Deal with it at the source. Disrupt the supply. We have signed the MOU with Crime Stoppers.”
Wheeler said it was important to raise public awareness by targeting users of commercial sex.
She offered a word of advice to the participants. “If, by chance, someone in the hotel offers you a ‘massage’, know you could be facilitating commercial sex, and, possibly encouraging human trafficking.”
Wheeler also said it was necessary to have public education in schools.