[TT Guardian] – Deputy director of the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) Alana Wheeler believes that human traffickers often use the same entry route as drug and gun smugglers to bring in foreign women for the sex slave industry.
“Some drugs and arms traffickers have graduated to trafficking women and girls, as human trafficking is more profitable and also less risky for some criminal networks,” Wheeler told the T&T Guardian.
While selling cocaine was a one-off trade, Wheeler said, a woman could be sold by her pimp/manager to clients repeatedly, which was far more lucrative.
“That woman does not have a choice to whom she is sold. Unfortunately there are vulnerable people in society. It’s a push and pull factor. Trinidad is an attractive economy for the Latin American and Guyanese women,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler described human trafficking, which has been in existence since the 19th century, as “modern day slavery.”
She said Guyanese were exploited for forced labour because of job opportunities in our country.
“There are university students and graduates (foreigners) who are unable to get jobs and they grow frustrated and there are opportunities in Trinidad where they earn US dollars. There are young women who would not have a problem prostituting themselves because in their country this trade is legal,” she said.
“Prostitution is not equal to human trafficking. Trafficking does not equal prostitution. Often, victims of human trafficking do not admit what they are doing is wrong because it’s an embarrassing and humiliating situation to admit that you were duped or deceived.”
She said soliciting in prostitution was illegal.
What made the situation worse, Wheeler said, was our porous borders which allowed human traffickers to gain entry with their victims at several points.
Wheeler said there must, however, be an element of exploitation for a case to be considered human trafficking.
“Exploitation means some kind of force or they were coerced into doing it. We have cases where girls were locked in a room or apartments and were denied communicating with relatives, friends or the public. Also their movement is monitored.
“They don’t have a choice with who they sleep with and their earnings are taken away. There are Trinidad and Tobago nationals who are being trafficked in and outside of Trinidad in the area of sexual exploitation. We are looking at some investigations right now.”